Singer opens up about suicidal thoughts after his Ménière’s disease diagnosis - what is the disorder?

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Singer Huey Lewis has opened up about his Ménière’s disease diagnosis. [Photo: Reuters]
Singer Huey Lewis has opened up about his Ménière’s disease diagnosis. [Photo: Reuters]

Singer Huey Lewis has opened up about having suicidal thoughts following his diagnosis with Ménière’s disease.

The ‘80s popstar, who sang hits like Power Of Love and If This Is It, revealed in April last year he was being treated for the progressive condition.

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“In the first two months of this, I was suicidal,” he told Whitefish Review. “I actually contemplated my demise.”

READ MORE: Huey Lewis contemplated taking his own life after hearing loss diagnosis

The Huey Lewis and the News frontman cancelled all gigs after the disorder prevented him hearing music well enough to sing along.

Still struggling to hear, Huey is now in a better place.

“There are always people worse off, and after all I’m still a lucky guy, and it’s important to remember that”, he said.

The Power Of Love singer stopped touring when he lost his hearing. [Photo: Reuters]
The Power Of Love singer stopped touring when he lost his hearing. [Photo: Reuters]

What is Ménière’s disease?

Ménière’s disease affects the inner ear, throwing off a sufferer’s balance and hearing, according to the Ménière’s Society.

It affects between one in every 1,000-to-2,000 people in the UK. In the US, around 615,000 people suffer, American Hearing Research Foundation statistics show.

Ménière’s cause is unknown. Some point the finger at genetics, with between 7% and 10% of patients having a relative with the condition.

The disease may increase pressure in the endolymphatic sac, which contains fluid that “bathes” the sensory cells of the inner ear.

This could come about due to an immune disorder, allergies, viral infections, a head injury or migraines, the NHS reports. A combination of the above is likely to blame, it adds.

READ MORE: What Ménière’s Disease Has Given and Taken From Me

Symptoms vary between people and over time. Most endure unpredictable vertigo - dizziness with a spinning sensation.

This usually occurs alongside nausea and vomiting, and can last for as little as a few minutes or up to 24 hours.

Some also develop tinnitus - a continuous ringing, buzzing or whooshing sound in the ear with no external source.

This is thought to be due to damage to the hair cell receptors in the inner ear.

In non-sufferers, these cells fire signals up the auditory nerve to the brain in response to a stimuli. Tinnitus patients find the cells send these signals in a disorganised, spontaneous way.

Hearing loss and a feeling of “fullness” in the ear may also come about due to the increased pressure in the endolymphatic sac.

Vertigo may come about when this pressure is suddenly released. Over time, repeated episodes of high pressure followed by a sudden release may permanently damage the delicate structures of the inner ear.

Signs of the disease can ease between “attacks” for days, months or even years. This can be distressing for sufferers, with them never knowing when the ordeal will strike.

Over time, patients may struggle to maintain their balance. They might also find their hearing loss becomes permanent, while their tinnitus worsens.

READ MORE: How can hearing loss be prevented?

Ménière’s is incurable, with treatment focusing on controlling symptoms. This may be via medication or hearing aids.

The drug prochlorperazine helps relieve severe nausea and vomiting, while antihistamines may be beneficial in milder cases or to combat vertigo, the NHS reports.

These tablets should be taken at the onset of symptoms to help ward off a full-on attack. Prochlorperazine may be given as an injection to speed up its effects.

Counselling or relaxation therapies, like yoga, may help those struggling to cope with the condition.

Some also find quitting smoking and following a low-salt diet, free of alcohol and caffeine, eases their symptoms, according to the NHS.

Four out of five patients find these therapies and lifestyle hacks sufficient, according to the Ménière’s Society. Others may go under the knife to relieve their vertigo.

The NHS warns few studies have looked into the effectiveness of surgery in Ménière’s, adding it should therefore only be considered as a last resort.

Drivers must inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if they are prone to sudden vertigo attacks.

Find more information about the disease at the Ménière’s Society’s website.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, the Samaritans are available 24/7 on 116 123.

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