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Dizziness or vertigo is a common symptom of labyrinthitis.

Dizziness or vertigo is a common symptom of labyrinthitis.
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Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the balancing centre in your inner ear (or labyrinth). It is usually caused by an infection. Symptoms include hearing loss, persistent room-spinning and dizziness (vertigo). Most people are better within two to three months.

What causes labyrinthitis?

The most common cause of labyrinthitis is a viral infection, particularly from a cold or the flu. Sometimes an ear infection can lead to labyrinthitis.

Sometimes a bacterial infection, such as meningitis or a middle ear infection, can cause labyrinthitis. Some autoimmune conditions, allergies and medications can lead to labyrinthitis.

Labyrinthitis symptoms

Most people with labyrinthitis feel that the room is spinning. This dizziness is also known as vertigo. It can be mild, or it can be so bad it is hard to get out of bed.

Some people find their hearing gets worse for a while. Usually this is not permanent.

Other symptoms include:

  • nausea, almost like sea-sickness
  • a false sense that they are moving
  • uncontrolled eye movement
  • loss of balance
  • fever
  • ear pain
  • vomiting
  • ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • fluid or pus seeping out of the ear.

Labyrinthitis diagnosis

If you have symptoms indicative of labyrinthitis, you may need to visit your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Your doctor will talk to you and examine you. The examination may include:

  • asking you to move your head rapidly
  • hearing tests
  • eye tests
  • checking your blood pressure
  • checking your balance.

Your doctor may also organise tests such as an EEG, a CT scan or an MRI.

Labyrinthitis treatment

If you have been diagnosed with labyrinthitis, your doctor may prescribe medications such as:

  • corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in your inner ear
  • vestibular suppressants for severe vertigo
  • anti-nausea medications for nausea or vomiting.

Specialised rehabilitation and physiotherapy can help.

You can also help ease symptoms by:

  • resting on your side during dizzy episodes
  • avoiding chocolate, coffee and alcohol
  • if you smoke, quitting
  • drinking plenty of water
  • creating a low-noise, low-stress environment
  • avoiding bright lights.

Last reviewed: July 2015

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