Answers to inner ear infection (Labyrinthitis) FAQs

Answers to inner ear infection (Labyrinthitis) FAQs

Labyrinthitis - health related questions

Is an inner ear infection contagious?

An inner ear infection which causes the inflammation of the inner ear, known as labyrinthitis, is not contagious, meaning that it cannot spread from one person to another. However, the bacteria or viruses that may cause these infections are contagious and are able to be transmitted between people.

Can I have an inner ear infection without pain?

The pain experienced with an inner ear infection is often a result of the fluid build-up in your middle ear, however, not all people will experience pain with labyrinthitis, however, the common symptoms of vertigo and dizziness will still be evident.

Can an inner infection cause pus?

Your ears will naturally discharge earwax which is a naturally-occurring oil that your body produces to ensure that bacteria, dust and other invading substances do not enter your ear. Usually a purulent discharge (pus) is noted with a middle ear infection (otitis media), not an inner ear infection.

Can labyrinthitis result in permanent hearing loss?

In some cases, labyrinthitis may result in hearing loss that is permanent, however, this complication is not commonly seen among patients. Other permanent complications that may result from an inner ear infection include tinnitus (i.e. ringing in the ears) and balance issues.

Hearing loss due to labyrinthitis

Does having an inner ear infection make you feel tired?

Labyrinthitis results in a number of symptoms that can leave you feeling fatigued, or cause you to experience vomiting, dizziness, pain and nausea, all of which can take a toll on your body. Your immune system will also be working over time to fight off the invading pathogens causing the infection, which may make you feel weak and tired. This is a normal part of any infection.

Pain medications and antibiotics may also make you feel tired. When feeling exhausted, it is advised that you rest and sleep to help promote further healing and not overexert yourself physically or mentally which may delay the process.

Can labyrinthitis result in memory issues and forgetfulness?

The symptoms associated with an inner ear infection can often result in confusion, forgetfulness and even memory problems. Some patients report experiencing 'brain fog', this term describes experiencing a lack of mental clarity and focus. Brain fog is typically a result of suffering from dizziness and vertigo as a result of an inner ear infection.

Can an inner ear infection cause anxiety?

If you are someone who is prone to suffering from anxiety, then the pain, balance impairment, dizziness and vertigo experienced with an inner ear infection may intensify your feelings of anxiety, particularly if you do not know why you are suffering from these symptoms.

Speak to your doctor if you think you may have an inner ear infection and chat to him or her should you suffer from anxiety on a regular basis so that they can equip you with coping techniques to help improve the symptoms and decrease your chances of suffering from anxiety or panic attacks as a result of the symptoms experienced.

**My Med MemoAnxiety is a term used to describe a mental condition that is defined by symptoms that include feelings of worry, nervousness, fear and apprehension. A number of people suffer from anxiety at some point in their lives, especially when they are ill. However, some may be more prone to severe episodes or symptoms of the disorder that often feel debilitating.

Can an inner ear infection cause toothache?

An inner ear infection can cause tension in your facial muscles which can result in discomfort that resembles toothache. The proximity of your ear to your jaw can also result in you experiencing referred pain, which means that you may feel pain originating from your ear in your teeth.

Sinus infections which are often experienced along with an inner ear infection as a result of the bacteria or virus that caused the ear infection, can also cause tooth pain, or rather, the illusion of tooth pain as the source of the pressure and pain is in the sinuses and surrounding areas, not the teeth and gums in particular.

Labyrinthitis Treatment Questions

Can chiropractic care help with labyrinthitis?

First things first, a chiropractor is a licensed healthcare professional who aids in treating neuromuscular disorders, focusing on the manual adjustment and manipulation of the spine. Labyrinthitis affects your balance and some patients have reported that chiropractic treatment has aided in improving the balance issues experienced as a result of an inner ear infection and helped them to regain control over their movements.

Chiropractic techniques are thought to help clear the debris and fluid-accumulation that may have settled in the sensitive structures of your inner ear which cause dizziness and vertigo and also impair your balance.

Chiropractic care for inner ear infection

Labyrinthitis and various activities

Can I fly with labyrinthitis?

It is always advised that you speak to your doctor about travelling via plane if you have been diagnosed with an inner ear infection (labyrinthitis). While it shouldn’t pose a risk, a number of people find that the pressure of the cabin intensifies the symptoms of vertigo, dizziness and pain associated with the condition. Whether you will be fit to fly or not will ultimately depend on the severity of your symptoms.

Can I drive with an inner ear infection?

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor may recommend that you do not drive during the first few days of an inner ear infection as these are typically the worst in terms of dizziness and vertigo. After this, it is advised that you drive with extreme caution. If you are experiencing severe dizziness and pain, then it is best that you get someone you know to drive you wherever you need to go as it is not worth risking your life and the lives of others on the road should you have an accident due to your inability to concentrate as a result of vertigo, dizziness or pain.

It is generally advised that you should not drive if you suffer from vertigo and dizziness, if you work at heights or your job consists of operating heavy machinery, then you will need to wait until your symptoms subside before returning to work, both for your own safety and the safety of others.

Scuba diving after an inner ear infection

Can I scuba dive after having labyrinthitis?

Recovery from labyrinthitis is likely to take anywhere from a few days to six weeks for symptoms to disappear. Most doctors will recommend that it is safe to scuba dive after having an inner ear infection as long as you have been asymptomatic for a period of six weeks or more.

This means that you have not experienced any of the symptoms associated with an inner ear infection for this amount of time. This is advised so as to avoid any permanent damage to your inner ear that may be caused as a result of the pressure changes experienced when diving.

Labyrinthitis and other diseases and conditions

What is the difference between labyrinthitis and Meniere's disease?

There are various kinds of vestibular disorders, a number of people may confuse two in particular, these are labyrinthitis and Meniere's disease. Your vestibular system encompasses the parts of your inner ear and your brain that are responsible for processing sensory information that is involved with eye movements and balance control. Vestibular disorders occur as a result of an injury or disease that damages these processing areas.

Meniere’s disease is one of the most commonly occurring vestibular disorders and results in a set of recurring symptoms as a result of a large amount of fluid known as endolymph, accumulating in the inner ear. The cause of this condition is not yet known, however, the four main symptoms include tinnitus, vertigo, ear pressure, as well as hearing issues. There are a few differentiating factors that set labyrinthitis and Meniere's disease apart, some of these include:

  • Meniere's disease involves a large amount of fluid (endolymph) accumulating in the inner ear, whereas labyrinthitis refers to an infection that results in inflammation of the inner ear.
  • Meniere's disease is chronic and deemed incurable, however, there are certain medications available to aid in managing the symptoms of the condition, whereas labyrinthitis tends to go away within a few days or weeks, with the majority of patients experiencing a full recovery after six weeks.
  • Meniere's disease does not have a known cause, labyrinthitis is typically caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
  • Those suffering from Meniere's disease will typically experience fluctuating hearing loss in both ears which may progress to attacks of vertigo and dizziness, known as a Meniere’s disease attack. Those with labyrinthitis may experience different severities of symptoms, but specific attacks are not exhibited by patients.

Is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) the same as labyrinthitis?

While benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BBPV) is of the most common vestibular disorder, it is not the same as labyrinthitis. BPPV is considered a mechanical issue concerning the inner ear while labyrinthitis is an infection thereof.

The two conditions do however share similar symptoms including dizziness and vertigo as well as other similar symptoms that are a result of an accumulation of debris in the inner ear. This debris is known as otoconia and consists of tiny calcium carbonate (commonly referred to as ear rocks) crystals. The crystals, which are typically found in the utricle (the greater of the two fluid-filled cavities which make up the labyrinth of the inner ear), will become dislodged and move to the fluid-filled canals. When these crystals continue to move and accumulate in these canals, this can interfere with the normal movement of fluid that these ear canals use to detect head motion. This results in the inner ear sending the wrong signal to the brain, leading to feelings of light-headedness, dizziness and nausea. 

BBPV is considered a mechanical issue concerning the inner ear while labyrinthitis is an infection thereof.


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