Labyrinthitis is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause dizziness and vertigo resulting from an infection that produces inflammation of the inner ear. Labyrinthitis is inflammation of the labyrinth which is a tunnel within the inner ear that connects the brain and the ear. This tunnel allows for the nerves to connect the brain to the ear. Inflammation disrupts the transmission of sensory information from the ear to the brain disrupting our sense of balance. The labyrinth usually becomes inflamed because of a viral infection, which may have started with a sore throat, cold or flu. It can also be caused by a bacterial infection although this is much less common.
Labyrinthitis can produce vestibular symptoms including:
Nausea and Vomiting
These symptoms can worsen with head movements. As labyrinthitis also affects the inner ear it can produce Tinnitus (ringing or noises in the ear) and/or Hearing loss.
Through a comprehensive history and a series of tests that involve moving the head into specific orientations. These tests aim to determine which ear is effected by the virus/bacteria. This is done through an assessment of eye movements in a very specific pattern called nystagmus. At Vestibular Rehab we use Frenzel goggles to accurately check for nystagmus during these tests.
Based on findings from the exam, patients undergo a treatment technique called habitualisation. This consist of a series of specific exercises used to recalibrate the body's balance system and to improve it. Your physiotherapist will also provide you with specific exercises to restore the balance to the vestibular system so that your sense of orientation and the stability of your vision particularly when moving your head improves and you feel more confident in your balance.
After the Session:
Symptoms of labyrinthitis settle over a period of few weeks. During the early phase of the infection symptoms are at their worst. After a few days, the worst of these symptoms should reduce, and you should no longer feel dizzy all the time. While symptoms typically resolve within a few weeks, some people can still suffer from residual symptoms of dizziness/vertigo due to an ongoing imbalance in sensory transmission to the brain between the affected and unaffected ear.
Your physiotherapist will provide a structured program with exercises to complete at home. 67% of patients see a significant improvement in their symptoms with a focused exercise program, while only 38% of patients saw an improvement in symptoms through medical management. On average patients will find significant or complete resolution of their symptoms following two or three sessions.