Labyrinthitis is irritation and swelling of the inner ear. It can cause vertigo and hearing loss.
Bacterial labyrinthitis; Serous labyrinthitis; Neuronitis - vestibular; Vestibular neuronitis; Viral neurolabyrinthitis; Vestibular neuritis; Labyrinthitis - vertigo: Labyrinthitis - dizziness; Labyrinthitis - vertigo; Labyrinthitis - hearing loss
Labyrinthitis is usually caused by a virus and sometimes by bacteria. Having a cold or flu can trigger the condition. Less often, an ear infection may lead to labyrinthitis. Other causes include allergies or certain medicines that are bad for the inner ear.
Your inner ear is important for both hearing and balance. When you have labyrinthitis, the parts of your inner ear become irritated and swollen. This can make you lose your balance and cause hearing loss.
These factors raise your risk for labyrinthitis:
Symptoms may include any of the following:
Exams and Tests
Your health care provider may give you a physical exam. You may also have tests of your nervous system (neurological exam).
Tests can rule out other causes of your symptoms. These may include:
Labyrinthitis usually goes away within a few weeks. Treatment can help reduce vertigo and other symptoms. Medicines that may help include:
If you have severe vomiting, you may be admitted to the hospital.
Follow your provider's instructions for taking care of yourself at home. Doing these things can help you manage vertigo:
You should avoid the following for 1 week after symptoms disappear:
A sudden dizzy spell during these activities can be dangerous.
It takes time for labyrinthitis symptoms to go away completely.
In very rare cases, hearing loss is permanent.
People with severe vertigo may get dehydrated due to frequent vomiting.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if:
Call 911 or your local emergency number if you have any of the following severe symptoms:
There is no known way to prevent labyrinthitis.
Baloh RW, Jen JC. Hearing and equilibrium. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 400.
Boomsaad ZE, Telian SA, Patil PG. Treatment of intractable vertigo. In: Winn HR, ed. Youmans and Winn Neurological Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 105.
Goddard JC, Slattery WH. Infections of the labyrinth. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 153.
Review Date: 6/23/2019
Reviewed By: Alireza Minagar, MD, MBA, Professor, Department of Neurology, LSU Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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