May 2019 Inverness Courier
A Group which supports people with inner ear problems that can affect balance and hearing has secured a permanent meeting place at Inshes Church in Inverness. The North of Scotland Ménière’s Support Group now has 14 members and one of its founders, Joyce Muir from Inverness, said they are looking to grow in numbers and offer support to people who suffer from the condition across the Highlands.
“Ménière’s disease is an inner ear disorder which can cause vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss and balance problems,” said Ms Muir, a former assistant head of information management and technology at Raigmore Hospital. “They reckon one person in 1000 suffers from the disease and it can be very debilitating when you suffer an attack which can last anything up to six hours causing dizziness, headaches and vomiting. We are trying to raise awareness of Ménière’s but we know many people suffer from vestibular migraine problems and although that’s not specifically Ménière’s they would be made very welcome.”
The support group was formed last year and Ms Muir (67) said they had members from Tain, Alness, Kingussie, Nairn, Elgin, the Black Isle and Skye. “Although we are holding our bi-monthly meetings in Inverness we want to reach out to people who not only suffer from Ménière’s but anyone with vestibular problems which might be causing them distress. There is only one Ménière’s group in Ireland and none in Wales and ours is the first to be formed in Scotland so we really do hope it will grow so that people know that they are not alone.”
Ms Muir said the group can’t give advice about conditions. “We can only support each other. The members of the group have all been diagnosed with Ménière’s. People who suffer loss of balance will be made very welcome but they need first to seek professional medical advice on their condition.”
Ms Muir had problems with labrynthitis in 2005 and over the years had bouts of sickness and dizziness but she was not diagnosed with Ménière’s until 2015. “There are times when it’s not active so that means you can have a reasonably active life. But when it is active that’s when the problems kick in – the vomiting, the spinning, tinnitus, loss of hearing – it can last up to six hours and completely wipe you out. When it is active you are very restricted. Some days you can’t leave the house because of your loss of balance. People seeing someone having an attack of Ménière’s might think they are drunk because they are unsteady on their feet. It’s very distressing when it happens and debilitating. But having the support of fellow sufferers who you can be in touch with on a daily basis by phone is wonderful. You make friendships too and we are all there for each other.”
Ms Muir was diagnosed with Ménière’s by Professor Malcolm Laing, consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon at Raigmore Hospital. “He is the Ménière’s expert in the Highlands and has already kindly addressed one of our meetings. To those further afield who may not be able to attend meetings, our phone support service is available. Just to have someone to talk to who understands is wonderful.”