Labyrinthitis is inflammation of the labyrinth, in the inner ear.

The disorder is almost always caused by bacterial or viral infection. Viral labyrinthitis may develop during illnesses such as influenza. The bacterial form is a complication of otitis media (middle-ear infection).


The main symptom of labyrinthitis is vertigo. Nausea, vomiting, nystagmus (abnormal, jerky movements of the eye), tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and hearing loss may also occur.

Mechanism of labyrinthitis

In labyrinthitis, inflammation of the fluid-filled chambers (labyrinth) of the inner ear causes disruption of the individual’s sense of balance. The inflammation is usually caused by viral or bacterial infection.


Viral labyrinthitis clears up on its own, but symptoms may be relieved by anti-histamine drugs. Bacterial labyrinthitis needs immediate treatment with antibiotic drugs, otherwise permanent deafness or meningitis (inflammation of the membranes covering the brain) may result.