Otitis Interna

Medically reviewed by Suzanne Falck, MD on July 3, 2017Written by Kathryn Watson

Overview

Otitis interna is an inflammation that is located in your inner ear. This condition is more commonly known as labyrinthitis or vestibular neuritis.

It isn’t clear what causes labyrinthitis. It once was thought to be a result of viral infection, but less than half the time is this the case. It almost always goes away on its own without treatment. But in some instances, it causes permanent hearing loss.

Keep reading to find out more about this condition of the inner ear.

Symptoms

Labyrinthitis affects your hearing as well as your sense of balance. Common symptoms include:

  • vertigo
  • dizziness
  • a ringing sound in your ears

Labyrinthitis isn’t as common as otitis media, which is inflammation in the middle of your ear canal. Though the symptoms might not seem serious, getting proper treatment to make sure the infection doesn’t last very long is essential.

How is it treated?

Treatments for any ear infection begin by monitoring the infection to see if it will get better on its own. Up to 80 percent of ear infections will go away on their own without a prescription antibiotic.

The main symptom is vertigo, which can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, and walking. So it’s important to treatment these symptoms until they pass. Your doctor will prescribe medications such as anti-nausea medicines, antiviral medications, or steroids for such symptoms.

You may be tempted to try a homeopathic remedy for your infection. However, you should never insert a substance into your ear unless you’re under the guidance of your doctor, especially if you have an infection.

Once you introduce a foreign substance into your ear canal, there is no way to drain it out. Trapped substances in your ear can worsen an infection and hurt your hearing. According to the Mayo Clinic, results from these types of homeopathic remedies are inconclusive.

As well, if you’re experiencing labyrinthitis, the problem is in the inner part of your ear. There isn’t a connection from your outer ear to the inner part where the problem is. So you’ll want to avoid putting anything into your ear canal unless instructed by your physician.

Causes and risk factors

It isn’t clear what causes labyrinthitis. It was once thought that it was caused by a virus. But people with labyrinthitis report having had a virus less than half the time. As such, doctors don’t really know what the risk factors are for developing it.

Complications

Even the worst cases of labyrinthitis will usually go away after a day or two of treatment. However, often the symptoms are bad enough that you’ll want to see a doctor quickly.

In some rare situations, labyrinthitis can cause permanent damage to your hearing. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, seek out a medical professional right away:

  • diminished hearing
  • a fever that doesn’t subside after 48 hours or goes over 103˚F (39.4˚C)
  • acute pain in your ear

It can be harmful to your hearing to assume that you’re dealing with an ear infection that your body can fight off on its own.

Outlook

The outlook for labyrinthitis is quite good. Once your doctor locates where the inflammation in your ear is occurring and steers you to a course of treatment, you should feel better within two to three days. Provided your labyrinthitis is treated promptly, there is little risk for long-term complications and hearing loss.

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