Labyrinthitis is a disorder that's believed to be caused by an infection that inflames the inner ear (the labyrinth) and the nerves connecting the inner ear to the brain.
It's different from a middle ear infection, which is a bacterial infection common in children.
Labyrinthitis has many names -- vestibular neuritis, vestibular neuronitis, and neurolabyrinthitis. The term labyrinthitis is used when hearing loss occurs.
Labyrinthitis outbreaks can occur in a community, causing many people in the area to have similar symptoms.
Labyrinthitis is usually caused by a virus, and occasionally by bacteria.
The following can cause labyrinthitis:
Symptoms range from mild to severe, and usually come on suddenly.
The symptoms gradually subside over several weeks, though dizziness can become chronic. If not treated promptly, some hearing loss may be permanent.
Many people have a hard time describing their symptoms because they simply don't feel well and may have trouble concentrating or focusing their eyes.
Since the inner ear is responsible for balance, an infection may cause you to suddenly become dizzy or feel as if the earth is spinning (vertigo).
The dizziness can lead to nausea and vomiting.
Ear symptoms include ringing in the ear (tinnitus) or hearing loss in the affected ear.
The following may increase your risk of developing labyrinthitis:
There isn't a specific test for labyrinthitis, so your doctor will diagnose the disorder by eliminating other conditions with similar symptoms, such as Ménières syndrome and benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
You may have one or more of the following tests to rule out other conditions:
While labyrinthitis usually goes away on its own within a few weeks, it may last for months. Treatment can help relieve symptoms and prevent complications.
Once a bacterial infection is ruled out, your doctor may prescribe the following medications, depending on your symptoms:
The following can help you manage vertigo:
It's best to avoid driving or operating heavy machinery until your symptoms have not occurred for at least one week:
With proper treatment, your condition won't cause permanent damage. However, minor to severe permanent hearing loss can occur.
Other complications include: