The labyrinth is the innermost part of the ear, located at the point where the ear connects to the skull. It contains two important parts: the cochlea – this relays sounds to the brain and is responsible for hearing and the vestibular system – a complex set of fluid-filled channels responsible for your sense of balance.
Inflammation of the labyrinth can disrupt both your hearing and sense of balance, and can trigger the symptoms of labyrinthitis.
Inflammation of the labyrinth is usually caused by either a viral infection, such as a cold or flu or, less commonly, a bacterial infection. Symptoms include dizziness, vertigo, loss of balance and hearing loss.
The symptoms are usually mild and get better after a few weeks; however, some cases are more severe and last much longer. This can have a major impact on a person’s quality of life and their ability to do everyday tasks.
Viral labyrinthitis is thought to be a relatively common ear condition among adults. Other types of ear infections are usually more widespread in children. Most cases of viral labyrinthitis occur in adults aged 30–60 years old. Women are twice as likely to be affected by viral labyrinthitis as men.
Bacterial labyrinthitis is much less common. Younger children under two years old are more vulnerable to developing bacterial labyrinthitis.Bacterial labyrinthitis carries a higher risk of causing permanent hearing loss. It's estimated that 1 in 3 cases of acquired hearing loss are caused by bacterial labyrinthitis.
A small number of people have persistent symptoms that last for several months or possibly years. These people will require a more intensive type of treatment called vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT). This treatment attempts to "retrain" the brain to cope with the altered signals that come from the vestibular system.
For more information visit: http://www.labyrinthitis.org.uk/