Labyrinthitis is a disease of the inner ear, characterized by development of inflammation and irritation of the affected area. Such a type of condition can give rise to vertigo and can also lead to hearing loss.
Development of severe vertigo is the classical symptom of labyrinthitis. In many cases, vomiting and nausea also accompany vertigo. Hearing loss is yet another important marker of labyrinthitis. Many individuals also suffer from tinnitus, a condition characterized by ringing sensation inside the ears. Affected individuals also have difficulty in focusing their eyes.
Labyrinthitis, in many cases can cause permanent damage to the ear leading to permanent hearing loss if the cochlea is affected. The individual’s sense of balance can also get disrupted for prolonged period even after the inflammation gets corrected.
A preliminary physical examination of the ear would be carried out followed by neurological tests. Various other tests may also be required to rule out other underlying disease conditions that can mimic signs and symptoms of labyrinthitis. These include hearing tests, electroencephalography (EEG) and eye movement test. Blood tests and imaging studies such as CT scan and MRI would also be required to diagnose meningitis as the causative factor for labyrinthitis . MRI can also be useful for diagnosing conditions such as acoustic neuroma, brain abscess, epidural hematoma and stroke.
Viral labyrinthitis can be effectively managed by medications and rest that would be necessary to ease the symptoms. In case of bacterial infections, antibiotics are the treatment of choice. Corticosteroids are recommended for reducing the inflammation. In addition, diazepam and other benzodiapines are also indicated. Individuals are advised to take adequate rest and avoid all those activities that would call for stress and sudden movement. Recent studies have pointed towards the beneficial role of antioxidant therapy as additional treatments .
Surgical intervention is the treatment of choice, if labyrinthitis has occurred due to otitis media. In such cases, ventilation tube is indicated along with surgical drainage followed by debridement. Hospital admission is necessary if the symptoms have turned severe and individuals show signs of slurred speech, numbness, weakness, diplopia and gait disturbance .
Bacterial and viral infections can cause labyrinthitis. Infectious disorders like bacterial infection causing otitis media or meningitis, can favor the development of such a type of inflammatory disease . In many cases, allergies, certain medications, head injury, trauma, stroke or ear injury can affect the inner ear increasing the risk of labyrinthitis. In addition to these, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, smoking and stress also predisposes an individual to contract this condition. Individuals suffering from upper respiratory tract infections can also be affected by labyrinthitis.
The exact incidence of labyrinthitis is unknown. However, from the available data, it has been estimated that viral labyrinthis is the most common form. Cases of sensorineural hearing loss that occur due to viral labyrinthitis are known to affect about 1 in 10,000 individuals. Of these, 40% of the affect individuals also complain of vertigo .
Individuals in the age group of 30 to 60 years are more prone to develop viral labyrinthitis. Such a type of condition, rarely strikes the children population .
The inner ear is responsible for maintaining balance and is important for the function of hearing. In case of labyrinthitis, the various parts of the inner ear undergo inflammation and irritation. Such series of events can drastically affect the balance and hearing ability of the affected individuals. The resultant reaction is development of vertigo and hearing loss .
Several types of autoimmune processes can also give rise to labyrinthitis. The inner ear consists of various nerves that can also get inflamed, giving rise to a condition known as vestibular neuritis. Symptoms of this disorder often mimic the symptoms of labyrinthitis, making diagnosis of the condition difficult .
So far there is no known way to prevent the development of labyrinthitis. However, complications can be kept at bay with initiation of treatment at the right time. In addition, affected individuals are advised against driving and other activities until symptoms resolve completely.
Various types of viruses, bacteria and infectious organisms may cause the development of labyrinthitis. This type of disorder of the inner ear disturbs the balance and the hearing function, causing hearing loss and vertigo. Labyrinthitis can affect one or both the ears. Patients often do well with treatment; however the condition cannot be prevented .