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Infections of Inner Ear: Labyrinthitis, Vestibular Neuritis, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Jun 08, 2023

Infections of Inner Ear

Certain areas of the inner ear may become inflamed as a result of inner ear infections. The hearing and balance of a person may be impacted by certain infections. They frequently happen when someone has a cold, the flu, or if an infection in the middle ear extends to the inner ear.

The human ear's inner ear is its deepest component. It rests on the ear tubes' tip. This area of the ear is responsible for translating sound waves into nerve impulses. It is critical in aiding one's ability to balance.

A multitude of symptoms can result from the inflammation of the inner ear components that can be brought on by inner ear infections trusted source. These include hearing loss, nausea, dizziness, and a sense of imbalance.

The several types of inner ear infections are examined in this article along with their symptoms, causes, diagnoses, available treatments, and at-home cures. It also examines children's inner ear infections, consequences, and risk factors.

Read this blog further to get a quick overview of this important topic for ENT and ace your NEET PG exam preparation.


Labyrinthitis is a bacterial or viral illnessInner ear's Reliable Source. The labyrinth, which is the maze of fluid-filled passages in the inner ear, becomes inflamed as a result. The flow of sensory data from the inner ear to the brain may be hampered by this inflammation. 

Some of the signs of labyrinthitis can be brought on by this disturbance.The majority of cases are caused by viral infections.Labyrinthitis' Reliable Source. Adults between the ages of 30 and 60 are particularly susceptible to viral labyrinthitis. 

Additionally, it affects women twice as often as it does men. Labyrinthitis frequently accompanies less severe ailments like the flu or the common cold. Labyrinthitis may occasionally be brought on by a bacterial infection.

Types of Labyrinthitis

Labyrinthitis comes in a variety of forms, which we discuss in more detail below.

  • Labyrinthitis virus- The majority of labyrinthitis instances are brought on by viral infections that travel to the inner ear, including the flu or a cold. Typical symptoms of viral labyrinthitis include abrupt dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. It can occasionally result in hearing loss as well. In most cases, viral labyrinthitis resolves on its own. The goal of medications for this type of labyrinthitis is to reduce symptoms like nausea and vertigo.
  • Labyrinthitis due to bacteria- Bacterial labyrinthitis comes in two primary varieties:
  1. Serous labyrinthitis- It is  also known as toxic labyrinthitis, is frequently caused by chronic otitis media (COM), a bacterial infection of the middle ear. If COM is not treated, it can lead to a fluid accumulation in the middle ear that can eventually spread to the inner ear. Hearing loss exclusively affects high-frequency noises in serous labyrinthitis, a less serious form of bacterial labyrinthitis. Serous labyrinthitis symptoms include mild dizziness, nausea, or vomiting, and labyrinthitis with pus
  2. Suppurative labyrinthitis- When bacteria from the middle ear invade the inner ear, labyrinthitis of this type results. Compared to serous labyrinthitis, the symptoms are more severe, and they often only affect one ear.

Symptoms of Labyrinthitis

Symptoms of labyrinthitis can arise unexpectedly and without prior notice. ordinary signsLabyrinthitis-related reliable sources include:

Nausea, vomiting, tinnitus, hearing loss or impairment, vertigo. These symptoms can be fairly severe and longer for several days. Usually after 1-2 weeks, they go away on their own. The person could need treatment for their symptoms if the issue persists for a long time.

Treatment for Labyrinthitis

Treatment for labyrinthitis aims to reduce symptoms. Some viral labyrinthitis symptoms, such as nausea or vertigo, might be relieved with over-the-counter antihistamines. Promethazine and meclizine, which are stronger antihistamines, can only be obtained with a prescription.

For patients with more serious symptoms, a doctor may also recommend sedatives or corticosteroids. They might suggest antibiotics if labyrinthitis is brought on by a bacterial infection. The patient's doctor may need to examine them for evidence of long-term hearing loss if symptoms last for several months. They can then offer advice regarding whether or not a hearing aid could be beneficial.

A person may benefit from vestibular rehabilitation, a sort of physical therapy, if they have labyrinthitis that is persistent or long-lasting. Exercises that are part of this therapy are designed to enhance balance and lessen lightheadedness. Although therapists usually customize vestibular therapy to a patient's unique demands, some standard activities include:

Bending the head forward and backward, twisting the head from side to side, bending the torso forward, leaning the torso over to each side, catching and tossing a ball, and walking up and down an incline are all examples of eye movement.

The majority of patients can practice at-home vestibular rehabilitation activities, but a qualified physical therapist will assess their progress and adjust the exercises as needed.

Vestibular Neuritis

Vestibular neuritis is  a vestibular nerve infection Reliable Source. By transmitting impulses from the inner ear to the brain, this nerve, which is located in the inner ear, aids in the detection of balance. This nerve becomes irritated as a result of vestibular neuritis, which can result in symptoms including nausea and vertigo.

This infection frequently precedes or coexists with a viral infection. Vestibular neuritis is most likely caused by the reactivation of a herpes simplex virus, claims an older article from 2009Trusted Source. According to medical professionals, vestibular neuritis is a benign ailment that often only lasts a brief time before going away on its own. It could also be a sequela, which is a disorder that develops as a result of an earlier illness or injury.

Symptoms of Vestibular Neuritis

The following signs and symptoms of vestibular neuritis may be present in a person.dependable source:

Nausea, vomiting, and balance issues with vertigo

Symptoms of vestibular neuritis frequently appear within hours and reach their climax within the first two days. They are frequently continuous and typically get worse when you shift your head.

The typical duration of this ailment is several days. After this time, the symptoms frequently go away on their own without any help. However, on rare occasions, it could take a few weeks or months for all of the symptoms to go away.

Treatment of Vestibular Neuritis

Benzodiazepines like diazepam or lorazepam antihistamines like diphenhydramine or meclizine antiemetics like promethazine or metoclopramide. These drugs might be able to reduce nausea and vertigo. It is essential to take these pills for a maximum of three days. 

Continuous use can prevent the brain from adjusting for the dizziness, which can result in persistent dizziness. To treat any underlying illness, the doctor may also prescribe antiviral or antibiotic drugs.

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Risk factors for inner ear infections

An inner ear infection can happen to anyone. But there are some things that can make someone more likely to get one. These consist of:

  • Catching an upper respiratory illness like the flu or a regular cold
  • Becoming infected in the middle ear
  • Catching meningitis or getting head trauma
  • Having a viral infection like herpes or measles having a respiratory ailment like bronchitis having an autoimmune condition.
  • There is little chance of suffering irreparable inner ear damage. But severe inner ear infections can harm certain inner ear structures permanently.

Diagnosis for inner ear infections

A doctor may use a balance test to identify an inner ear infection. They might also do a thorough test that includes a neurological evaluation. Since an inner ear infection cannot be identified solely by examining the ear with an otoscope, both the balance check and the neurological evaluation are crucial.

Labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis both have symptoms in common with a variety of other illnesses. In order to rule out these other conditions, a doctor may do the following tests:

  • Meniere's illness
  • migraine stroke
  • Neck arteries were injured by a brain hemorrhage BPPV
  • a brain growth

A doctor may do one of the following tests to look for these conditions:

  • Tests for hearing
  • Tests on blood
  • An MRI scan and a CT scan
  • An electronystagmography electroencephalogram

Complications of Inner Ear Infections

Different degrees of hearing loss and balance issues can result from permanent injury to certain inner ear structures. BPPV is yet another potential side effect of severe inner ear infections. This particular form of vertigo is brought on by quick head movements. 

BPPV does not pose a life-threatening concern, but it can increase the likelihood that a person would trip and fall, which could result in additional injuries. Additionally, BPPV can be quite uncomfortable and restrict physical activities.

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