Inner Ear Infection Information & Symptoms | Hidden Hearing

Inner Ear Infections

The medical term for an inner ear infection is labyrinthitis and it is a condition that can affect your hearing as well as your balance. While the majority of people who suffer from this condition will find that the symptoms can be overpowering in the first week or so, they often find it is resolved in a matter of weeks. However, it can sometimes be an ongoing problem. When labyrinthitis is an ongoing problem, it can have a more drastic effect on both someone's balance and hearing and therefore impact significantly on their life. It is common for an inner ear infection to only impact on one ear but there are occasions when it can occur in both of the ears.

An inner ear infection is commonly caused by an inflammation and it can result in a disruption of messages being sent from the ear to the brain. This results in you feeling dizzy because your brain draws the conclusion that your head is moving when in fact it is still. However, the information that is being sent to the brain from the other parts of the body, your muscles, joints and eyes, will stand at odds, causing a lack of co-ordination, which results in people feeling dizzy.

Vestibular neuritis is a similar type of condition to Laberythitis but it only affects the balance and not the hearing.

The Inner Ear - The labyrinth

The labyrinth is within the inner part of the ear and effectively has two parts to it:-

  • The Cochlea - it is a spiral shaped cavity in the bony laberynth and contains the Organ of corti- which is the hearing organ. It relays sounds to the brain and is responsible for hearing
  • The Vestibular System - a complex set of fluid-filled channels responsible for your sense of balance and movement

Inflammation of the labyrinth therefore can disrupt both the aspects above and thus triggers the symptoms of labyrinthitis. The labyrinth usually becomes inflamed either because of:-

  • A viral infection, such as a cold or flu
  • A bacterial infection, which is much less common

Symptoms of an Inner Ear Infection

There are a number of symptoms to look out for which could suggest that you are suffering from an inner ear infection. If you suffer from vertigo, which is the sensation that things are spinning around you even when you are still, you may have an inner ear infection. Similarly, if you are feeling sick or feel as though you are about to be sick, you may be suffering from an infection of the inner ear. Other potential symptoms could including having a ringing (or other noises) in your ear, tinnitus, or feeling unbalanced. While these symptoms may prove to be an indicator of something other than an inner ear infection, they may indicate this and they should be checked. If you suffer from any of these symptoms, it is sensible to book an appointment with a GP.

Inner ear infections can often develop when you have the flu, which should be borne in mind. This also means that symptoms such as having a fever or a sore throat, which could indicate having the flu, may actually see you suffering from an inner ear infection. Many people suffering from an infection of the inner ear will find that the symptoms are most notable when they wake up. The symptoms can improve after a few days but there are many people who feel weak or who suffer from these symptoms for a number of weeks at a time.

Complications of an Inner Ear Infection

In the vast majority of cases, there are no real complications that come from suffering from an infection of the inner ear. However, in some of the more extreme cases, there is a chance that the balance system in the inner ear may be damaged or people may suffer from permanent hearing loss. The brain will try and compensate for the damage but there is still a chance that people will feel unsteady for a number of days, even after the worst of the dizziness and spinning has subsided. Given the external dangers that may arise due to dizziness or a lack of balance, it is important that people suffering from these symptoms pay attention and focus on what is happening around them.

Causes of an Inner Ear Infection

While there is not widespread agreement on what actually causes an inner ear infection, there are a number of causes which are believed to have an impact. One of the most common causes of an infection of the inner ear is a viral infection. The most common viral infection is a cold but infections such as measles, mumps or rubella can have an impact. It is also common to find that bacterial infections have an impact on inner ear infections. If your infection has been caused by a virus, it is extremely likely that your hearing will be returned to normal. If your infection has been caused by bacteria, there is a risk that hearing loss may be permanent. This is where being examined by a doctor and determining which form of infection you have is very important for most people.

Treatment of an Inner Ear Infection

One of the most important things to do when suffering from this form of ear infection is to take things easy, rest and drink plenty of water. It is likely that your doctor will prescribe you something to minimise the risk of vomiting and nausea. When taking medication of this nature, it is important to be aware of the potential drowsiness factor they can cause, which may leave you being unable to drive or undertake certain tasks. In the majority of cases, the infection will pass within a number of weeks but some people can have the symptoms for months and maybe even years. People who suffer in the long-term will often need a form of therapy to retrain their brain to deal with the signals that it receives. This form of training is known as VRT, which stands for vestibular rehabilitation therapy.

People who suffer a bacterial form of inner ear infection may find that they need to receive intravenous antibiotics to overcome their condition. In the most severe cases, this may require a hospital stay where fluids are directed into the body via a drip which is inserted into a vein in the arm or hand.

When it comes to inner ear infections, it is believed that the majority of cases affect people who are aged between 30 years and 60 years old. This stands apart from a number of other ear infections which are more common with children and babies. While an inner ear infection can be unsettling, for the vast majority of people, there are no long term issues that arise from it. However, it is always best to be checked out by a doctor when you notice any of the symptoms.

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