an inner ear disorder. The two vestibular nerves in your inner ear send your
brain information about your spatial navigation and balance control. When one
of these nerves becomes inflamed, it creates a condition known as
The symptoms include dizziness, nausea, and loss of
hearing. Vertigo, another symptom, is
a type of dizziness marked by the sensation that you’re moving, even though you
aren’t. It can interfere with driving, working, and other activities.
Medications and self-help techniques can lessen the severity of your vertigo.
Several factors can cause this condition, including
infections and viruses. You should receive prompt treatment for any ear
infections, but there’s no known way to prevent labyrinthitis.
The treatment for labyrinthitis usually involves using
medications to control your symptoms. Most people find relief from symptoms
within one to three weeks and achieve full recovery in a month or two.
Symptoms of labyrinthitis begin quickly and can be quite
intense for several days. They usually begin to fade after that, but they can continue
to surface when you move your head suddenly. This condition doesn’t usually
Symptoms can include:
- loss of balance
- nausea and vomiting
- tinnitus, which is characterized by a ringing or
buzzing in your ear
- loss of hearing in the high-frequency range in
- difficulty focusing your eyes
In very rare cases, complications can include permanent
Labyrinthitis can occur at any age. A variety of factors can
cause labyrinthitis, including:
- respiratory illnesses, such as bronchitis
- viral infections of the inner ear
- stomach viruses
- herpes viruses
- bacterial infections, including bacterial middle
- infectious organisms, such as the organism that
causes Lyme disease
You have an increased risk of developing labyrinthitis if
- drink large quantities of alcohol
- have a history of allergies
- are habitually fatigued
- are under extreme stress
- take some prescription medications
- take over-the-counter medications (especially
to See the Doctor
If you have symptoms of labyrinthitis, you should make an
appointment to see your doctor to determine the cause.
Certain symptoms can be signs of a more serious condition.
Consider these symptoms to be an emergency and seek medical attention immediately:
- slurred speech
- double vision
Doctors can generally diagnose labyrinthitis during a
physical exam. In some cases, it’s not obvious during an ear exam, so a
complete physical exam, including a neurological evaluation, should be
Symptoms of labyrinthitis can mimic those of other
conditions, so your doctor may order tests to rule them out. These conditions
- Meniere’s disease, which is an inner ear
- small stroke
- brain hemorrhage, which is also known as “bleeding
on the brain”
- damage to the neck arteries
- benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, which is
an inner ear disorder
- brain tumor
- Tests to check for these conditions may include:
- hearing tests
- blood tests
- a CT or MRI scan of your head to record images
of your cranial structures
- electroencephalogram (EEG), which is a brain
- electronystagmography (ENG), which is an eye
Symptoms can be relieved with medications, including:
- prescription antihistamines, such as desloratadine
- over-the-counter antihistamines, such as fexofenadine
(Allegra), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or loratadine (Claritin)
- medications that can reduce dizziness and
nausea, such as meclozine (Antivert)
- sedatives, such as diazepam
- corticosteroids, such as prednisone
If you have an active infection, your doctor will probably
In addition to taking medications, there are several
techniques you can use to relieve vertigo:
- Avoid quick changes in position or sudden
- Sit still during a vertigo attack.
- Get up slowly from a lying down or seated
- Avoid television, computer screens, and bright
or flashing lights during a vertigo attack.
- If vertigo occurs while you’re in bed, try
sitting up in a chair and keeping your head still. Low lighting is better for
your symptoms than darkness or bright lights.
If your vertigo continues for a long time, physical and
occupational therapists can teach you exercises to help improve balance.
Vertigo can interfere with your ability to operate a car or
other machinery safely. You should make other arrangements until it’s safe to
In most cases, symptoms will resolve within one to three
weeks, and you’ll experience a full recovery in a few months. In the meantime,
symptoms such as vertigo and vomiting may interfere with your ability to work,
drive, or participate fully in sports. Try to ease back into these activities
slowly as you recover.
If your symptoms haven’t improved after several months, your
doctor may want to order additional tests to rule out other conditions if they
haven’t already done so.
Most patients have only a single episode of labyrinthitis.
It rarely becomes a chronic condition.