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Cochlear hydrops is a condition of the inner ear. Some physicians believe that cochlear hydrops may be a form of Meniere's disease, while others believe it is a distinct condition. Some physicians believe that cochlear hydrops is an early stage of Meniere's disease, that will eventually develop to encompass all the symptoms of true Meniere's disease. Others, however, disagree. Cochlear hydrops normally shares the Meniere's disease symptoms of aural fullness, tinnitus, and hearing loss, but, unlike Meniere's disease, it does not typically cause vertigo.
Excess fluid in the cochlear chamber of the inner ear is believed to cause cochlear hydrops. Because Meniere's disease can cause fluid to accumulate in the cochlear and vestibular chambers of the inner ear, some physicians believe that cochlear hydrops may be an early form of Meniere's disease. Others believe that, since cochlear hydrops does not necessarily affect the vestibular chamber of the inner ear, it is most likely a distinct condition.
People diagnosed with cochlear hydrops usually experience symptoms related to the malfunction of the cochlea in the inner ear. Excess fluid in the cochlear chamber can put abnormal pressure on the cochlea, leading to tinnitus, hearing loss, and feelings of fullness or pressure inside the ear. The hearing loss associated with this condition generally interferes with patients' ability to hear lower pitches first. Hearing loss then typically progresses to the higher pitches. Ringing sounds in the ears, known as tinnitus, can occur, and are often low in pitch.
This condition generally has a variable effect on hearing. The degree of a patient's hearing loss and tinnitus symptoms may change from one day to the next. Feelings of pressure and fullness in the ear can also vary in degree from day to day. Patients diagnosed with cochlear hydrops may experience symptom-free days. Symptoms generally follow a pattern in which feelings of pressure in the ear dissipate, followed by the dissipation of tinnitus, followed by restored ability to hear. When symptoms return, aural fullness and tinnitus generally begin at once.
Cochlear hydrops can sometimes be misdiagnosed as a dysfunction of the eustachian tubes, which help to regulate pressure levels on both sides of the eardrum. Cochlear hydrops, however, occurs most often in only one ear, while the other ear may remain unaffected.