Labyrinthitis causes inner ear inflammation. Patients can experience frequent dizziness (vertigo), hearing impairment, or body imbalance.
Individuals having a history of respiratory tract infection may develop labyrinth inflammation as a side effect. Patients should visit an ENT specialist to get diagnosed when experiencing prolonged auricular discomfort.
Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the hearing organs present in the inner ear. Patients can experience intense ear discomfort, body imbalance, and nausea.
Patients having a history of cold intolerance, drug allergy, or underlying ear problems are prone to labyrinth inflammation.
The inner ear comprises bony and membranous structures called the labyrinth. It contains the fluid-filled vestibular apparatus that contributes to the body balance mechanism.
Labyrinthitis leads to disruption in hearing, loss of body balance, nausea, and ringing sensation in the ear. Labyrinthitis is a rare condition observed in 3 to 4 people out of 100,000. However, it accounts for nearly 5% of all dizziness issues.
Adults are more likely to develop it from poor immunity, a stressful lifestyle and impact from blunt injuries to the head.
Patients showing suspected signs of labyrinthitis include:
- Vertigo (head-spinning experience)
- Hearing impairment (on exposure to high-frequency noise)
- Loss of body balance (dizziness)
- Ringing sensation in the ear (tinnitus)
- Inability to focus
Labyrinthitis results from the inflammation of the labyrinth. Potential factors triggering it include:
- Underlying ear or throat infection (bacterial/viral).
- Side effects of a blunt head injury.
- Drug incompatibility
- Stressful lifestyle
- Serial alcoholism
- Associated illness (Meniere’s disease)
Labyrinthitis can also happen as a side effect of pathogenic infections. Both adults and children are susceptible to it based on potential immunity against pathogens.
There are two types of labyrinthitis:
- Bacterial infection:
- Patients with a prolonged bacterial infection in the ear are most prone to bacteria-based labyrinthitis.
- Bacterial toxins can enter the inner ear, causing inflammation of the labyrinth.
- Patients contracting meningitis can experience labyrinth infection in later stages.
- Predominant among adult patients.
- Viral labyrinthitis:
- Prevalent among children.
- A side effect of chickenpox, cold allergies, hepatitis, measles and mumps.
- More frequent than bacterial labyrinth inflammation.
We suggest patients showing one or more of the mentioned symptoms visit an ENT specialist and undergo thorough screening to spot the actual cause of labyrinthitis.
- Scanning the cranium for potential injuries (CT scan)
- Checking for underlying infections (bacterial/viral issues)
- Using an endoscopy to check the state of the ear canal
- Enquiring about medications
- Audibility examination
- Pathological tests (blood)
- Performing brain scan (EEG)
- Checking for eye movements (ENG)
Labyrinthitis treatment depends on the underlying cause and findings from diagnosis. It comprises therapy, medications and surgery, depending on the state of the labyrinth.
We may prescribe the patient one or more remedial treatments:
Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT) is a proven technique to reduce the side effects of labyrinthitis. It helps the patient cope with body imbalance, reduces the feeling of vertigo, and helps develop stability while driving or performing mechanical activities.
Besides, the patient may need to use a hearing aid if auditory perception stays poor.
We prescribe specific medications (anti-histamines) that ease motion sickness issues. This help counter the side effects of labyrinthitis (vertigo).
Our ENT specialists may also prescribe drugs like anti-anxiety, antibiotics, anti-emetics, analgesics, and mild sedatives to reduce the after-effects of labyrinth infection.
We consider labyrinth surgery the last resort to treat labyrinthitis.
If the patient experiences prolonged discomfort, pain and a severe hearing disability, our ENT specialist performs a labyrinthectomy to remove the infected labyrinth.
If we diagnose the patient as having a risk of damaging the vestibulocochlear nerve (responsible for hearing) or posing a risk of sepsis, surgically removing the labyrinth is the best option.
Labyrinthitis has no preventive measures at present. We prescribe the following restrictive behaviours to prevent the deterioration of the underlying ear labyrinth infection:
- Not ignoring potential ear discomfort.
- Visiting a physician when feeling dizzy.
- Preventing exposure to cold weather.
- Not consuming alcohol or medication without a prescription.
- Not driving vehicles and abstaining from using an elevator.
- Ample rest to reduce nausea and vertigo.
The labyrinth is a vital organ for maintaining body balance. Inflammation or the spread of infection could dampen hearing ability while risking temporary mechanical disability owing to vertigo.
Patients experiencing mild ear problems should visit an ENT specialist and get a diagnosis for underlying auricular issues.
We suggest patients worried about having labyrinthitis symptoms visit their nearest CK Birla Hospital. Our state-of-the-art healthcare infrastructure and experienced clinical staff make it among the best places to get an early diagnosis under our ENT specialist Dr Vijay Verma.