Autoimmune disease refers to illness or disorder that occurs when healthy tissue (cells) get destroyed by the body’s own immune system. Autoimmune disorders of the ear disease are very rare. The body's immune system mistakenly attacks the inner ear. Associated symptoms can include dizziness, fullness of the ear, tinnitus and rotational vertigo (feeling like you or the room is spinning). Often this will begin with one ear but can spread to the other side over time.
Autoimmune disorders occur when immune cells misidentify normal cells in your body as an invading virus or bacteria and attack them, provoking an autoimmune reaction.
Immune cells can also attack other parts of the body. Almost 30% of people who have an autoimmune disorder of the ear have another autoimmune disease that affects their whole body, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, ulcerative colitis, or Sjoegren's syndrome (dry eye syndrome).
Because the symptoms are so common it can be hard to diagnose. It is often mistaken for an ear infection until hearing loss has spread to the second ear. To diagnose, your GP will ask questions about your health and medical history, do a physical exam, and give you a hearing test. You might also have a blood test. While there's not a test that can tell for sure that you have an ear related autoimmune disease the results may show that you're having an autoimmune reaction. If you are, your GP may well decide to refer you to see an Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant. Even though there may not be a clear diagnosis possible the GP or Consultant may treat you to reduce the associated symptoms.
Should you suspect that you may be experiencing an autoimmune reaction you will need to see you GP as soon as possible for either treatment or referral on to an ENT Consultant. Early intervention is also very important in treating the tinnitus. The sooner our experts can see you the less likely you are to develop a long-term negative reaction to the tinnitus.
You may benefit from sound therapy whilst the autoimmune disease is being diagnose and treated. This involves playing background noise, such as soft music, natural sounds or 'white noise' to distract you from the tinnitus or change your brain’s sensitivity to the tinnitus. Most hearing aids have these sounds already built in if you want to comfortably receive sound therapy for more extended periods. Otherwise, you can use headphones along with any number of effective apps now available. Check out our shop for bone conducting headphones that don't block your ears.
You may also benefit from cognitive behavior therapy, a form of talk therapy designed to change the way you think about a problem in order to change your emotional reaction to it and the way you behave toward it.