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Labyrinthitis

Bacterial labyrinthitis; Serous labyrinthitis; Neuronitis - vestibular; Vestibular neuronitis; Viral neurolabyrinthitis; Vestibular neuritis; Labyrinthitis - vertigo: Labyrinthitis - dizziness; Labyrinthitis - vertigo; Labyrinthitis - hearing loss

Labyrinthitis is irritation and swelling of the inner ear. It can cause vertigo and hearing loss.

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Ear anatomy

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Causes

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 drugs 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

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:

Treatment

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.

Outlook (Prognosis)

It takes time for labyrinthitis symptoms to go away completely.

In very rare cases, hearing loss is permanent.

Possible Complications

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:

Prevention

There is no known way to prevent labyrinthitis.

Related Information

Dizziness
Ear infection - acute
Common cold
Allergies - overview
Cholesteatoma
Respiratory
Otitis
Stress and your health
Fatigue

References

Baloh RW, Jen JC. Hearing and equilibrium. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 428.

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.

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Review Date: 8/7/2017  

Reviewed By: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, SUNY Stony Brook, School of Medicine, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. 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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