What is an inner ear infection?

If an infection occurs in any part of your inner ear, irritation can occur and lead to inflammation. Dizziness due to an ear infection usually goes away within a few weeks.
If an infection occurs in any part of your inner ear, irritation can occur and lead to inflammation. Dizziness due to an ear infection usually goes away within a few weeks.

Inner ear infections are common. They can occur in both children and adults. You may notice them in the outer, middle, or inner ear. 

You may also sometimes experience dizziness and vertigo

Because inner ear infections and vertigo often coincide, you may be wondering, "Can an inner ear infection cause vertigo?" You may also be wondering how long the dizziness will last. 

If so, continue reading to find out and to learn more about both ear infections and vertigo

The innermost part of the ear houses the labyrinth. This is a group of fluid-filled tubes and sacs. In this area of the ear, information about spatial changes and the motion of your body and surroundings is processed. When information is processed in the inner ear and sent to your brain, it helps you to keep your balance.

If an infection occurs in any part of your inner ear, irritation can occur and lead to inflammation. The inner ear system, including the labyrinth, may not work properly in this state, and it is possible some hearing can be lost. 

Since the labyrinth is usually the part of the ear inflamed and infected during an inner ear infection, the medical term used is referred to as labyrinthitis

When you have labyrinthitis, the eighth cranial nerve known as the vestibulocochlear nerve can also become inflamed. Inner ear inflammation can cause hearing loss and make it feel as if you are spinning. Symptoms of inflammation of this type usually will go away on their own over time, though. 

What are the symptoms of an inner ear infection?

There are several symptoms of an inner ear infection. They include:

  • Ear pain
  • Trouble hearing
  • Drainage from the ear
  • Dizziness or vertigo

Sometimes, symptoms can occur suddenly. They could also start in the morning and then get worse throughout the day. The symptoms in most cases will usually go away in a few days. Your balance could take a few weeks or longer to fully recover.

What is vertigo?

Vertigo is not a condition itself. It is a symptom of something irregular happening in your ears. It is a sensation that everything around you is spinning around. It can feel like you are slightly wobbly, or it can be so bad that you cannot keep your balance and complete normal tasks.

An attack of vertigo may last a few seconds, or it can last a longer period. It also can develop all of a sudden or slowly creep up on you as time passes. If you have severe vertigo, it can last for quite a few days and complicate daily tasks.

What kind of symptoms does vertigo have?

Both dizziness and vertigo are balance issues, so they are often used interchangeably. Dizziness, though, is a feeling of being off-balance. Vertigo, on the other hand, is a sensation that you are spinning or that the surrounding walls and furniture are. 

Vertigo may also be accompanied by:

Can an inner ear infection cause vertigo?

If your inner ear has an infection, it could cause the message-relaying system between the ears and the brain to work improperly. If the brain cannot adequately match information traveling from the normal ear nerves to the infected ones, that can cause vertigo. 

An inner ear infection is not the only situation in which vertigo can occur. Additionally, there are two types of vertigo:

  • Peripheral vertigo. Peripheral vertigo is the type of vertigo that occurs with inner ear infections.
  • Central vertigo. Central vertigo is due to some type of medical issue with the brain. This can include an infection, stroke, tumor, or traumatic brain injury.

How long does dizziness last with an inner ear infection?

The symptoms of labyrinthitis usually go away in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, treatments can help to reduce dizziness, vertigo, and other symptoms. Additionally, severe symptoms usually only last a week, and most people are usually back to 100 percent in 2 to 3 months. Older adults, however, are likely to have longer-lasting dizziness.

QUESTION

Ear infection or acute otitis media is an infection of the middle ear. See Answer

How do you treat an inner ear infection?

As with any medical problem, the treatment plan will depend on your age, health, and symptoms. The severity of the illness also affects the treatment plan. 

Medical treatment of labyrinthitis can include:

If the symptoms of labyrinthitis have gone away within a few weeks, all of your treatment should be complete. If, on the other hand, the symptoms remain, your doctor could have you do vestibular rehabilitation exercises. These physical therapy exercises can help your brain to adequately respond to the imbalance that the infection caused.

How do you treat vertigo?

Many times, vertigo can go away on its own without medical treatment. Sometimes, though, people continue to have several episodes over months or even years. Underlying conditions like Ménière's disease can exacerbate these symptoms.

Different types of vertigo can have specific types of treatment. One example would be head movement exercises. 

Antihistamines, meanwhile, are a type of medication that can help with treatment if you continue to have bouts of vertigo. 

Vestibular rehabilitation training could also be prescribed by your doctor for vertigo because it can help with balance issues and dizziness.

It is extremely important to visit your doctor if you think you may have an inner ear infection. Your doctor can keep an eye on your symptoms and make sure that you get the correct treatment. 

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Medically Reviewed on 4/15/2022
References
SOURCES:

Cedars-Sinai: "Labyrinthitis."

Cleveland Clinic: "Vertigo."

Mayo Clinic: "Dizziness," "Ear Infection."

National Health Service Scotland: "Vertigo."

Penn Medicine: "Labyrinthitis."