Labyrinthitis (inner ear infection)

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Key points: It is not recurrent, usually only in one ear, vertigo is severe at onset and gradually improves over the following six-weeks, hearing loss or tinnitus noises may also occur, medical advice recommended.

What is it?

Labyrinthitis is a viral or bacterial bug that causes disruption inside the inner ear. If it is contained to the balance organs alone, then vertigo will be the main concern. If the infection spreads to the area of the hearing organs then hearing loss and new noises (tinnitus) within the ear/s may also be noticed.

The situation:

The infection can cause trauma to the inner ear structures resulting in permanent damage to the fragile architecture of the inner ear. Luckily, we have two ears, so if one ear is damaged we can still use the balance and hearing functions on the other side. The recovery process is different for each person. The body and brain need to re-learn how to balance with the residual vestibular function. Many clients make a full balance recovery and return to ‘normal’ daily function however, this can be confusing, frustrating, and tedious.  To get the best results, begin a daily home program with vestibular and proprioceptive (touch) exercises that help re-train the balance pathways and reduce anxiety daily.  If you experience permanent hearing loss, talk with an audiologist about hearing devices that may assist you and get an annual hearing test to monitor changes over time.

Anxiety is a common reaction for patients with labyrinthitis due to the sudden onset of vigorous vertigo. Find strategies to calm and soothe any persistent worries or doubts. Make sure you seek medical advice and rule out any sinister causes to your symptoms. Chronic stress can delay the neuroplasticity repair process and prolong your symptoms.  Recovery includes physical, mental, emotional and ‘spiritual’ aspects of wellbeing. Generic exercises may not be sufficient to re-set your balance following damage to one ear.

Try the ROCK STEADY home program to customise home exercises for yourself.  Learn about your recovery process so that it can be a smooth process with gentle daily steps.