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New support group formed for patients with Ménière’s disease

Oct. 25, 2018, 9:01 AM

by Kelsey Herbers

Beginning Nov. 6, Vanderbilt’s Department of Otolaryngology will host a monthly support group for patients living with Ménière’s disease, a disorder effecting the inner ear that is characterized by episodes of symptoms such as vertigo (dizziness), tinnitus (a ringing inside the ear) and hearing loss. A chronic condition, Ménière’s disease is estimated to impact 615,000 people in the United States.

While there is no cure for the disease, research shows that changes in diet and lifestyle can reduce the severity of symptoms and cause patients to go into remission.

With this in mind, Vanderbilt University Medical Center patient and volunteer Karen Pashley, who has battled Ménière’s disease for nine years, approached her longtime doctors, Robert Labadie, MD, PhD, MMHC, vice chair of research for the Department of Otolaryngology, and Ken Watford, DNP, APRN, assistant professor in the department, about creating a  support group for other patients who face the same challenges.

“Because Ménière’s is an unpredictable and under-researched disorder, it can be tough to learn what works and what does not work for us,” said Pashley.

The group will provide education, management options and coping strategies from Vanderbilt experts along with support, compassion and encouragement from other patients.

“For me, it is so empowering and reassuring to know I am not alone — to know that there are others who will understand without me having to make an attempt at explaining what it’s like to live with Ménière’s,” said Pashley.

Meetings will involve a presentation by a guest speaker, a Q&A session and time for fellowship. Upcoming discussion topics include diet management, mindfulness and vestibular therapy along with information regarding hearing aids and cochlear implants, clinical trials and research and treatment options.

“’We have envisioned such a program for many years and are grateful for the work that Karen is doing to finally make this a reality,” Watford said. “The program will provide a valuable forum for Ménière’s patients to be able to share their own personal knowledge and experiences.”

“The Bill Wilkerson Center offers balance experts from both the Department of Otolaryngology as well as the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences,” said Roland Eavey, MD, Guy M. Maness Professor and chair of Otolaryngology and director of the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center. “Ménière’s is an extremely troublesome and unpredictable condition for our patients, and we welcome the opportunity to partner with the community.”

David Haynes, MD, MMHC, professor of Otolaryngology, Neurosurgery, Hearing and Speech Sciences and director of the cochlear implant program, added, “Patient-led support groups such as this are key to outreach and understanding and are an important part of our overall educational mission.”

Starting with the Nov. 6 kickoff, meetings will be held monthly from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on the eighth floor of the South Tower in Vanderbilt’s Medical Center East. The group is open to anyone who has been diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, regardless of whether they are an active patient at Vanderbilt, and there is no cost to participate.

For more information or to reserve a seat, contact Pashley at 352-279-1203.

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