People suffering from a vestibular disorder rely more heavily on the information from their eyes and sensors in the body. Consequently certain environments may cause them to feel dizzy. Tall buildings or high shelving in supermarkets and DIY stores, bad or flickering lighting, patterned and uneven walls and floors, escalators, spiral or open staircases and background noise can all create challenges for people with vestibular conditions. At the Ménière’s Society we speak to people on a daily basis who find their daily life can be affected by these environments. Something as simple as going to the supermarket for the weekly shop can be a challenge as one of our members explains: ‘I can cope with a small shop but those with rows of long aisles…are a nightmare. There is a visual “ripple” effect from the rows of cans and jars which make me feel as if I am on a boat in a very rough sea and I start to feel nauseous.’
Many people learn to manage their symptoms over time. Talking things through with others and acknowledging the affects as real rather than ‘in their head’ can help them to cope and learn to live with the symptoms. For some, however, the challenge of managing these symptoms prevents them from leaving the home and in the worst cases people may even stop going out to avoid putting themselves in these situations. The Ménière’s Society is the only registered charity in the UK dedicated solely to providing support and information for people with balance problems caused by vestibular disorders. We support people at all stages of their condition; from newly diagnosed to those in the later stages and those whose symptoms have returned after a period of remission. Knowing they are not alone and others share their concerns can be an enormous help to them in the management of their symptoms.
As Director of the Ménière’s Society, Natasha Harrington-Benton is responsible for the day to day running of the organisation. Her role involves a wide range of activities including fundraising, strategy, publicity, attending events and liaising with health professionals, researchers and related organisations. In addition, she remains a hands-on member of the office team – speaking to people affected by vestibular problems and responding to enquiries on the telephone information line. Natasha has worked for the Ménière’s Society for the last decade and has over 20 years of experience of working in the voluntary and not-for-profit sector.