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Everything You Should Know About Labyrinthitis

Medically reviewed by Diana Rose G. Tolentino, MD, MBA · Ear Nose and Throat · HMICare Clinic & Diagnostic Center

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Jun 21, 2021

Everything You Should Know About Labyrinthitis

Are you experiencing hearing loss and dizziness? Then there may be a chance that you have labyrinthitis. Here is some important information that you need to learn about this condition.

Know the Basics

What is Labyrinthitis?

The inner ear, which is also known as the labyrinth of the ear, is a part of your ear that houses the organs of the senses of equilibrium and hearing. When the labyrinth gets inflamed and infected, it affects your balance and hearing, hence the name labyrinthitis.

You might be wondering, “How long does labyrinthitis last?” It often lasts for around one to two weeks, but this may vary from person to person.

What Are the Types of Labyrinthitis?

There are two types of this condition: viral and bacterial. Here is a quick summary of each kind.

Viral Labyrinthitis

This type is more common and often comes from a viral infection like the flu or a cold. Symptoms may appear within 24 hours then gradually lessen over several days.

Cytomegalovirus is the most common cause of nongenetic hearing loss in the United States. Meanwhile in parts of the world that lack routine vaccination programs, congenital rubella remains an important cause of sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). Measles and mumps infection are also causes of childhood hearing loss in many countries.

Bacterial Labyrinthitis

There are three types of bacterial labyrinthitis. Here is a quick look at each type.

  • Toxic Labyrinthitis

If a middle ear infection enters the inner ear, it can cause toxic labyrinthitis. It often leads to loss of balance and hearing.

  • Syphilitic Labyrinthitis

This may appear at birth or over some time. Symptoms vary from person to person and they often occur gradually. This kind of labyrinthitis can also cause symptoms such as swelling of the forehead, and chronic eye inflammation.

  • Acute Suppurative Labyrinthitis

This condition is rare. Sudden vertigo is a common symptom that accompanies acute suppurative labyrinthitis. Meningitis could also cause this kind of labyrinthitis.

This often happens from a chronic middle ear infection that created a mass of solid debris inside the middle ear. The mass can make the surrounding inner ear bone weak, which makes the middle ear more prone to infections.


What Are the Causes?

Many factors could cause labyrinthitis, which may include:

  • Infectious organisms like the one that causes Lyme disease
  • Bacterial infections like bacterial middle ear infections
  • Herpes viruses
  • Stomach viruses
  • Inner ear viral infections
  • Respiratory illnesses like bronchitis

What You Need To Know About Middle Ear Infections

This condition may also be transferred from mother to baby, in the womb, or acquired from other viral infections. These include:

  • Mumps labyrinthitis, caused by paramyxovirus
  • Measles labyrinthitis, also caused by paramyxovirus
  • Varicella-zoster virus labyrinthitis or Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, caused by VZV
  • HIV related labyrinthitis, caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus
  • Acquired syphilitic labyrinthine infections, caused by the spirochete treponema pallidum

Risk Factors

Who Is at Risk?

Labyrinthitis can happen at any age, but most viral cases happen to adults who are 30-60 years old. While bacterial labyrinthitis is less common, children who are younger than two years old may be more vulnerable to this type.

Here are some factors that could put you at a higher risk of getting this condition:

  • Taking over-the-counter medicine, particularly aspirin
  • Taking certain prescription medications
  • Extreme stress
  • Being habitually fatigued
  • Having allergies
  • Consuming huge quantities of alcohol
  • Smoking


What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms often occur quickly and could be intense during the first few days. But they often fade after a few days pass, though they may come back if you suddenly move your head. Pain is uncommon, but there are other symptoms you should look out for, such as:

  • Difficulty focusing your eyes
  • Hearing loss in the high-frequency range in an ear
  • Tinnitus, which is a buzzing or ringing in your ear
  • Loss of balance
  • Vertigo
  • Dizziness

What Are the Risks?

There is a chance you can get permanent hearing loss from bacterial labyrinthitis. Children are more likely to get permanent hearing loss when they get labyrinthitis from meningitis.


How Do You Prevent Labyrinthitis?

Routine vaccination against common bacterial pathogens can help to prevent developing labyrinthitis. Aside from that, prompt visits to the doctor are important for early treatment of ear infections. Should you already have labyrinthitis symptoms, seek treatment from your doctor right away.


How Do You Diagnose Labyrinthitis?

Most doctors may diagnose labyrinthitis through a physical exam. However, a complete physical scan, which may include a neurological evaluation, may be performed if it is not obvious in the physical exam.

Symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions, such as damage to neck arteries, small strokes, migraines, or brain hemorrhages. Therefore, your doctor may perform other tests to see if you have a different condition.

What Is the Treatment?

Early identification of infection is important to avoid further complications. If your doctor diagnoses you with labyrinthitis, they may prescribe antibiotic therapy.

In addition, your doctor may give you medications to relieve your symptoms. Some of these medications may include:

  • Over-the-counter antihistamines
  • Corticosteroids
  • Sedatives like diazepam
  • Medications like meclizine to reduce nausea and dizziness
  • Prescription antihistamines like desloratadine

To relieve vertigo while you take antibiotic therapy, your doctor may advise you to use the following techniques:

  • Lower the lighting in rooms.
  • Sit in a chair while keeping your head still if you get vertigo in bed.
  • Avoid flashing or bright lights, computer screens, and television during vertigo attacks.
  • Get up slowly from seated or prone positions.
  • Sit still if you have a vertigo attack.
  • Avoid sudden movements.

Vertigo: Types, Causes, Risks, and Treatment

Occupational and physical therapists may suggest exercises that could improve your balance if your vertigo persists for a long time. It may also be recommended that you do not drive a car for some time.

Symptoms often go away after one to three weeks in most cases, and patients may have a full recovery after several months. It may be ideal to slowly ease into activities like sports or driving while you recover because symptoms like vomiting or vertigo may still occur.

A doctor may run other tests if your symptoms do not improve after several months. However, it is rare for this condition to become chronic. Most people only experience one episode of this in their lives.

When Should I See a Doctor?

It would be ideal to see your doctor if you have labyrinthitis to find out what the cause is. Some symptoms could be a sign of a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. These symptoms can include:

  • Double vision
  • Paralysis
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Slurred speech
  • Convulsions
  • Fainting


Learning more about labyrinthitis can help you learn how to spot the symptoms and know when you need to seek medical help.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Diana Rose G. Tolentino, MD, MBA

Ear Nose and Throat · HMICare Clinic & Diagnostic Center

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Jun 21, 2021

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