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University of Exeter Medical School

European Centre for Environment & Human Health

Understanding the impacts of Ménière’s Disease

This project has focused on the mental health and wellbeing impacts of Ménière’s disease and builds upon important findings from our previous research into the condition.

To help provide an overview of the findings from this two-phase study, the project team have produced a short introduction and a Key Findings booklet to illustrate how people experience and adapt to the onset and progression of Ménière’s disease in the context of their everyday lives.

Ménière’s is a long-term progressive inner ear disorder that impacts on the balance and hearing functions of the inner ear. It affects around 120,000 people in the UK and is most commonly diagnosed between 40-60 years of age. Currently, there is no known cure for Ménière’s, and only symptomatic drug treatment.

The first phase of this study used UK Biobank data to analyse the impacts of the disease at a population level. Participant responses to 38 questions about mental health and wellbeing provided the most comprehensive analysis of the condition’s effect on mental health to date.

Using this ‘big picture’ from phase one, the second part of this research conducted individual in-depth qualitative interviews with 16 Ménière’s patients.

These data provided an insight into what it’s like to live with Ménière’s disease in the context of everyday life, and the impact it has on patients’ significant others. Within this group of 16 patients, we sought out eight who received their diagnosis relatively recently and eight who have been diagnosed for six years or more.

In addition, one significant other for each patient – identified as being central to their everyday management of the disease – was interviewed. This enabled us to explore the ways in which patients adapt to living with the disease over time, as well as the detailed nature of social support in this process.

Combining quantitative and qualitative research methods allowed us to provide a detailed insight into:

  1. The impact of Ménière’s disease on mental health and wellbeing;
  2. How the condition’s duration alters mental health wellbeing;
  3. How Ménière’s compares to other chronic conditions such as asthma, arthritis and migraine;
  4. How patients deal with the unpredictable nature of the disease;
  5. The nature, source and value of support;
  6. The impact Ménière’s has on patient’s relationships with those around them.

Ultimately we hope this research will enable health professionals to develop more effective and empathetic ways of providing support and treatment.

It will help patients to make sense of their own experiences of Ménière’s by providing insight into the everyday lives of others who are in a similar situation. It will also raise awareness of the disease, which currently has a low profile amongst the general public and medical community.