Labyrinthitis is an inner ear viral infection, where you can typically experience feelings of vertigo and dizziness. It happens when the labyrinth - a delicate structure deep within the ear - becomes inflamed, sometimes as a result of exposure to another more common viral illness like a cold or flu.
As the home of the cochlea and the vestibular systems, any damage to the labyrinth can cause severe discomfort, meaning that you may struggle with everyday tasks until you have fully recovered from the disease.
Causes of labyrinthitis
Vestibular neuronitis and labyrinthitis are two viral infections that are caused by common illnesses such as sore throats, glandular fever, colds or flu.
Other causes are less likely, but certain other conditions may have symptoms that encourage labryrinthitis:
- Bacterial infection in the middle ear
- Ear injury
- Blood circulation blockage to part of the brain
- A side effect of medication (very rare)
Symptoms of labyrinthitis
There are 3 symptoms that arise with nearly every case of labyrinthitis - dizziness, hearing loss and vertigo.
In some of the mild cases, you will only experience small symptoms in short bursts, but in serious cases you can encounter high intensity loss of balance that you may not be able to stand upright, or it could be found that you were having a stroke.
Other symptoms of labyrinthitis include:
- Hearing loss, ranging from mild to total hearing loss
- Pressure in the affected ear(s)
- Ear pain
- Vomiting or nausea
- Blurred or double vision
If you are feeling unbalanced or dizzy, it is advised that you should avoid driving, using tools and machinery, or working at heights.
Symptoms normally last anywhere from a few days to several weeks, but particularly bad cases can persist for months or even years after the initial viral infection has gone.
If you are experiencing balance symptoms without hearing loss, you can actually be suffering from a condition known as vestibular neuronitis. Both terms are used interchangeably, with only a very slight difference in symptoms.
Treatments for labyrinthitis
To treat immediate attacks of vertigo that are characterized by deafness in one ear, it is advised that you seek urgent medical attention, as it could be a sign of blocked blood vessels to the brain or there may be additional problems which may need hearing aid support.
If symptoms do not clear up within a few weeks, you may be referred for vestibular rehabilitation therapy.
To treat incidences of labyrinthitis that have a less common cause, specific treatment will be prescribed. For instance, a bacterial infection in the middle ear might require antibiotics that would be ineffectual for a viral infection.
If you are suffering with labyrinthitis, there is much kind of self-help options that might alleviate some of the symptoms.
Drinking plenty of water, bed rest and minimizing exposure to bright lights, caffeine and loud noises should help ease the dizziness. It is also advised to avoid stressful situations.