Labyrinthitis - A guide to Hearing Loss

A labyrinth is a ‘complex system of passageways’ and this is a very accurate description of this particular condition. The inner ear contains a series of complex passages filled with fluid which control our ability to hear, regulate balance and enable us to manage our movements.

This fluid transmits signals to the brain where they are interpreted and this enables us to perform a wide range of movements. The ability to move, the speed and in what direction are managed effectively by this process.

As you can imagine this is a delicate and precise system which works very well but it can become out of kilter as a result of an infection or inflammation. If this labyrinth and inner ear become infected then a condition known as ‘labyrinthitis’ develops. Symptoms of this include problems with balancing, tinnitus and hearing loss.

What causes labyrinthitis?

It can be caused by any of the following:

    • Head cold
    • Viral infection
    • Bacterial infection
    • Mumps
    • Ear injuries
    • Over reliance on certain medications
    • Chronic alcohol abuse

Symptoms of labyrinthitis

These include:

  • Vertigo
  • Dizziness or general unsteadiness
  • Stumbling or difficulty with balance
  • Headaches
  • Light-headedness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Visual disorder

People with labyrinthitis feel as if their surroundings are moving around them or are unsteady on their feet. They also report a movement of the ground or feeling as if they are being pushed in different directions. If you have labyrinthitis then you will experience most of these symptoms and these can be short term or intermittent. In some cases they can last for a long time which then impacts upon your quality of life.

This includes a lowered immune system, tiredness, anxiety, depression and lack of self-confidence.

Treatment for labyrinthitis

This depends upon the cause of this condition. If it is caused by a head cold or viral infection then the body’s immune system will take care of these and so is unlikely to require treatment. In these cases, the only treatment required is for the labyrinthitis symptoms only.

Your GP will prescribe a medication to treat these symptoms. He/she can also recommend a series of exercises called ‘vestibular rehabilitation therapy’ which is designed to help you improve your balance and co-ordination. He/she will advise you to keep your fluids going, get plenty of rest and avid caffeine and other stimulants. Do not drive or perform a task which requires complete concentration if you are experiencing vertigo or balance problems.

Hearing usually returns to normal once this condition clears although you may have some slight dizziness for a short period afterwards.

Complications are rare but do happen and include permanent tinnitus, balance problems and hearing loss.

Hearing Loss

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