The inner ear is located behind the middle ear. It's part of the balance center of your body. When the inner ear becomes irritated or inflamed it causes a condition called labyrinthitis. It may due to a viral infection. But often the cause is not known. Labyrinthitis causes sudden dizziness and balance problems. It often causes a feeling that you or the room is spinning (vertigo). You may feel nauseated or throw up. You may also feel a loss of balance when trying to walk. Head movement from side to side or changes in body position (from lying to sitting or standing) may make symptoms worse. You may have ringing in the ear. Hearing may also be affected.

An episode of labyrinthitis may last seconds, minutes, or hours. It may never return. Or symptoms may recur off and on for a few weeks or longer. In many cases, the problem is short-term and goes away when the inner ear issue goes away.

Home care

  • Take medicine as prescribed to ease your symptoms. Unless another medicine was prescribed, you can try over-the-counter motion sickness pills. Note that these medicines may cause drowsiness.

  • If symptoms are severe, rest quietly in bed. Change positions slowly. There may be one position that feels best, such as lying on one side or lying on your back with your head slightly raised on pillows. Until you have no symptoms, you are at a higher risk of falling. Let someone help you when you get up. Get rid of home hazards such as loose electrical cords and throw rugs. Don’t walk in unfamiliar areas that aren't lighted. Use night lights in bathrooms and kitchens.

  • Vestibular rehabilitation exercises are done by moving your head in certain ways to help fix problems in the inner ear. If these exercises have been prescribed, do them as you have been instructed.

  • Don't drive or work with dangerous machinery until 1 week has passed without symptoms. Be careful when using stairs.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:

  • Symptoms that aren't controlled by medicine 

  • Symptoms that get worse

  • Repeated vomiting that is not eased by medicine

  • Weakness that gets worse

  • Fainting

  • Headache or abnormal drowsiness

  • Trouble with vision or speech

  • Trouble moving your face, arms, or legs

  • Weakness or numbness in your face, arms, or legs

  • Hearing loss

  • Symptoms that last more than a few days

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