In each of your inner ear, you have the so-called labyrinth — a maze-like structure consisting of canals and channels that are filled with fluid. There are instances wherein it may get infected because of an invading virus or sometimes bacteria, causing the labyrinth to become inflamed. In the medical world, it’s referred to as labyrinthitis.
The bad news with labyrinthitis is it comes with a host of annoying symptoms that can interfere with your daily life. Also, in very rare cases, it may lead to permanent hearing loss. The good news is this inner ear infection tends to resolve on its own in 1 to 3 weeks, even without medical treatment.
To date, medical doctors do not really know the exact cause of labyrinthitis, although they are quite sure that it usually comes after viral infection such as the common cold and flu — yes, it may happen even if the infection due to a virus does not take place in the inner ear. In some instances, labyrinthitis may also be caused by a bacterial infection.
Allergies and the presence of a tumor, benign or otherwise, in the inner ear may also give rise to labyrinthitis. The same is true for injury or trauma to the head just like a concussion. According to medical authorities, excessive consumption of alcohol and the intake of certain drugs like aspirin may also cause labyrinthitis.
It is said that people who smoke are at high risk of ending up with labyrinthitis. The same is true for those who are often stressed and fatigued as the immune system that can help suppress an infection is weakened.
A person who develops labyrinthitis will surely experience a handful of symptoms as soon as the inner ear infection begins. Also, they tend to intensify within the next few days. It is possible for the symptoms to somewhat subside during the infection, but they may appear once more when the head is moved suddenly.
It is very rare for labyrinthitis to cause any pain. However, someone who has it is very much likely to suffer from vertigo — that feeling that the room is spinning or you are moving even though you’re not. Because of vertigo, someone who has labyrinthitis may also experience loss of balance, nausea and vomiting.
Having difficulty focusing on objects is another symptom because labyrinthitis can cause the eyes to move around a lot. The inner ear infection may also cause tinnitus, which is characterized by a ringing or buzzing sound in the ear. Experts say that labyrinthitis may lead to permanent loss of hearing, but only in very rare instances.
In treating labyrinthitis, the primary goal is to lessen the different symptoms. For instance, over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines may be prescribed by a doctor. It is also possible for him or her to recommend the intake of drugs that are for nausea. Sometimes, sedatives may also be prescribed.
If there is an active infection taking place elsewhere on the body, it’s not unlikely for a doctor to prescribe antiviral or antibacterial medications to help put an end to it.
Do take note that immediate medical attention should be sought in case symptoms such as severe vomiting and headache, fever, double vision, speech problem, and weakness or paralysis of face or arm muscles are encountered.
One of the most bothersome symptoms of labyrinthitis is vertigo. To help keep this problem at bay, one should avoid quick changes in body position, and the head should not be moved rapidly. Anything with bright or flashing lights should be avoided, like a television or computer screen.
In order to keep oneself and others from danger, someone with labyrinthitis who is suffering from vertigo should refrain from driving a car or operating machinery.