Rare and Fascinating Hearing Disorders

Rare and Fascinating Hearing Disorders

This week on the Sound Advice blog, we highlight a different rare hearing condition each day.

Mal de Debarquement Syndrome

This is a rare condition that is experienced after a cruise, flight, or other sustained motion event. While the condition is fairly new and does not have a lot of scientific research providing insight into the condition, there are many reports of this condition and symptomatology has been established.

Symptoms most frequently reported include a persistent sensation of motion usually described as rocking, swaying, or bobbing; difficulty maintaining balance; extreme fatigue; and difficulty concentrating (“brain fog”). Other common symptoms include dizziness, visual disturbances (such as seeing motion, inability to focus etc.), headaches and/or migraine headaches, confusion, and anxiety. Many patients also describe ear symptoms such as hyperacusis, tinnitus, “fullness”, pain, or even decreased hearing. Cognitive impairment (“brain fog”) includes an inability to recall words, short term memory loss, and an inability to multi-task.

Interestingly, the condition often abates when the patient is in motion such as in a car, train, plane, or boat. Symptoms are increased by stress, lack of sleep, crowds, flickering lights, loud sounds, fast or sudden movements, enclosed areas or busy patterns.

In MdDS, the symptoms persist for more than a month, possibly for many years, and sometimes do not resolve at all. This differs from the very common condition of  land sickness that most people feel for a short time after a motion event such as a boat cruise, aircraft ride, or even a treadmill routine.

MdDS is thought to be a neurological syndrome with no known cause or cure. Research is being undertaken into the neurological nature of this syndrome through imaging studies.

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