Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the labyrinth in the inner ear. The labyrinth is a system of cavities and canals in the inner ear that affects hearing, balance, and eye movement.


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Causes include:

  • Viral or bacterial infection (most common cause)
  • Head injury
  • Tumor in the brain or head
  • Disease of blood vessels
  • Stroke]]>
  • Nerve problems
  • Side effects of drugs, including:
    • Aminoglycoside antibiotics
    • Aspirin
    • Quinine


Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. Risk factors for labyrinthitis include:

  • Current or recent viral infection (especially a respiratory infection)
  • Allergies
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Stress


The symptoms can range from mild to severe and last for days or many weeks. Symptoms are usually temporary, but rarely, can become permanent.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Vertigo]]> (spinning sensation)
  • Dizziness

Other symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hearing loss
  • Involuntary eye movement
  • Ringing in the ear ]]>(tinnitus)]]>



The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Initial diagnosis is based on the symptoms and the results of your exam.

Tests may include:

  • Examination of the middle ear for signs of a viral or bacterial infection
  • Hearing tests]]>
  • Electronystagmogram—a test of eye movement
  • ]]>CT scan]]> or ]]>MRI scan]]> —to look at structures in the head



Treatment may include:


  • Antibiotics (only for bacterial infection)
  • Medication to control the symptoms, including:
    • Antiemetics—to control nausea and vomiting
    • Vestibular suppressants—such as meclizine, to help control loss of balance and dizziness
    • Steroids—in limited situations, to help control inflammation
    • Anti-viral medication (eg, Acyclovir]]>)– this may be prescribed by your physician

Note: Without antibiotic treatment, bacterial labyrinthitis can lead to permanent hearing loss or permanent problems with balance.

Self-care Measures

  • Rest, lie still with your eyes closed in a darkened room during acute attacks.
  • Avoid movement, especially sudden movement, as much as possible.
  • Avoid reading.
  • Resume normal activities gradually after the symptoms have cleared.

Emergency Treatment

In some cases, nausea and vomiting cannot be controlled. This can result in severe ]]>dehydration]]> , which may require hospitalization to receive intravenous fluids.


Rarely, labyrinthitis may be due to a break in the membranes between the middle and inner ear. Surgery to repair the break may be required. If a tumor is causing the condition, surgery may also be needed.



To reduce your risk of getting labyrinthitis:

  • Seek prompt treatment for any ear problems or infection.
  • Get medical advice on treating respiratory infections.
  • Avoid head injury by wearing seat belts and safety helmets.
  • Ask your doctor about side effects of any medication you’re taking.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Take steps to prevent blood vessel disease or stroke. These include: