Definition

Labyrinthitis is swelling and irritation of the labyrinth of the inner ear. This is a series of fluid-filled tubes and sacs.

Labyrinthitis
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Causes

This problem may be caused by:

  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Trauma
  • Certain medicines

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Current or recent viral infection, especially a respiratory infection
  • Allergies
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Stress
  • Head injury
  • Blood vessel disorders
  • Problems with the immune system
  • Taking certain medicines, such as antibiotics, aspirin, and quinine

Symptoms

Problems can range from mild to severe and last for days or weeks.

Problems may be:

  • Tiredness
  • A feeling of spinning
  • Lightheadedness
  • Balance problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Problems controlling eye movement
  • Ringing in the ear
  • Hearing loss

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the ears. You may need to see a doctor who treats ear problems.

Hearing tests will be done.

Images may be taken. This can be done with:

Treatment

Any underlying cause will need to be treated. This problem usually goes away on its own with time. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Choices are:

Medicine

Medicines to control symptoms may be:

  • Antiemetics—to control nausea and vomiting
  • Vestibular suppressants—to limit vertigo
  • Steroids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—to help control inflammation

Vestibular Exercises

Vestibular exercises use a series of eye, head, and body movements. They get the body used to moving without the feeling of spinning.

Prevention

There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES:

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
https://www.nidcd.nih.gov

Vestibular Disorders Association
http://www.vestibular.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Alberta Health
http://www.health.alberta.ca

Health Canada
http://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Labyrinthitis. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/labyrinthitis. Accessed January 8, 2021.

Labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis. Vestibular Disorders Association website. Available at: https://vestibular.org/article/diagnosis-treatment/types-of-vestibular-disorders/labyrinthitis-and-vestibular-neuritis. Accessed January 8, 2021.

Royal W 3rd, Vargas D. Bell's palsy and vestibular neuronitis. Handb Clin Neurol. 2014;123:763-770.

Vestibular neuronitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/vestibular-neuronitis. Accessed January 8, 2021.

Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD  Last Updated: 1/8/2021