Cochlear hydrops is a condition of the inner ear. Some medical experts believe it may be a form of Meniere's disease, or perhaps an early stage of the disease, that will eventually develop to encompass all the symptoms of the true condition. Others, however, disagree. The two conditions share the symptoms of aural fullness, tinnitus, and hearing loss, but, unlike Meniere's disease, cochlear hydrops does not typically cause vertigo.
Excess fluid in the cochlear chamber of the inner ear is believed to cause this condition. Meniere's disease can cause fluid to accumulate in the cochlear and vestibular chambers of the inner ear, which is why some medical professionals think the two are related. Others believe that, since this condition does not necessarily affect the vestibular chamber of the inner ear, it is most likely a distinct illness.
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, but it then typically progresses to the higher pitches. Ringing sounds in the ears, known as tinnitus, can occur, and the noises are often low in pitch.
This condition generally has a variable effect on hearing, and the degree of a patient's symptoms may change from one day to the next. Patients diagnosed with cochlear hydrops may even 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 the 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. This condition, however, occurs most often in only one ear, typically leaving the other unaffected.