Overview of Labyrinthitis

The ear is divided into three parts: outer, middle, and inner ear. The inner ear consists of the cochlea, vestibular nerve, and auditory nerve. The ear can be easily affected by a viral or bacterial infection causing numerous health problems.
Labyrinthitis (بھولبلییا) is an inner ear infection that is caused by inflammation of one of the two vestibular nerves in the inner ear. The two vestibular nerves are responsible for spatial navigation and balance. So, when the infection occurs, individuals usually lose their balance and suffer from hearing issues.
The inner ear is also called the labyrinth. Hence, the name labyrinthitis for this condition.
Labyrinthitis can also lead to a secondary condition called Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) causing dizziness and vertigo or Ménière’s disease-causing hearing loss, ringing in the ears, vertigo, and pressure in the ear.

Prevalence of Labyrinthitis

1 in 10,000 cases is affected by labyrinthitis. In Pakistan, the prevalence of ear infections is found to be 10 percent.

Doctors Treating Labyrinthitis

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Signs and Symptoms of Labyrinthitis

Signs and Symptoms of labyrinthitis include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of balance
  • Vertigo
  • Vomiting
  • Earache
  • Feeling of pressure in the inner ear
  • Ringing in the ear
  • Discharge from the ear

Types of Labyrinthitis

Causes of Labyrinthitis

The most common cause of labyrinthitis is viral infections. Bacteria can also cause this condition with a severe bout of labyrinthitis. Viruses associated with labyrinthitis include:

  • Herpes virus
  • Measles virus
  • Rubella virus
  • Hepatitis virus
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Poliovirus
  • Influenza virus

Risk Factors of Labyrinthitis

Risk factors of labyrinthitis include:

  • Lyme disease
  • Extreme stress
  • Alcoholism
  • Respiratory infections
  • Meningitis
  • Common cold or flu
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Middle ear infections
  • Specific medications

Complications of Labyrinthitis

An early diagnosis can help a person and can reduce permanent damage to the inner ear. But severe cases of labyrinthitis can cause permanent damage to the vestibular system which can lead to hearing loss.
Untreated labyrinthitis can also lead to a condition that is known as benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. This condition mainly arises due to sudden and unplanned movements of the head. Although it is not a life-threatening condition it can be quite severe.



In most cases, labyrinthitis is due to an underlying condition. Therefore it is possible to prevent it. Make sure to wash your hands frequently so that the chances of bacterial infection can be reduced. Furthermore, if you limit the chances of occurrences of flu and seasonal colds you are minimizing the chance of labyrinthitis.



No specific tests are designed for labyrinthitis. A detailed physical examination is done along with a neurological evaluation. This rules out other conditions, such as:

  • Stroke
  • Brain injury
  • Vestibular neuritis
  • Head injury
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Neurological disorders

A tuning fork exam may help to diagnose hearing loss.

Treatment of Labyrinthitis | When to Consult a Doctor

The exact treatment of labyrinthitis depends on the symptoms, cause, and duration of the problem.

  • Medications

Antihistamines can be taken to relieve nausea and dizziness. Corticosteroids are prescribed for severe symptoms. For a bacterial infection, antibiotics are prescribed.
(Note: Take medication only after your doctor’s recommendation)

  • Therapy

For chronic labyrinthitis, vestibular rehabilitation (a type of physical therapy) is recommended. This improves balance and reduces dizziness.
These exercises can also be done at home or at the clinic.

Long-term Outlook

Labyrinthitis is not contagious nor is it life-threatening. Any unnecessary movement is to be avoided while recovering from labyrinthitis. It is important to take plenty of rest. For chronic cases, physical therapy is the best way to go.

Labyrinthitis is an inner ear infection causing dizziness and hearing loss. If any of the mentioned symptoms are available, an ENT specialist needs to be consulted immediately.