Otitis Interna

Otitis Interna Definition

Otitis interna is a condition in which your inner ear becomes inflamed. Other names for this condition are vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis. Otitis interna is not a common condition but it can cause permanent hearing loss if left untreated1.

otitis interna


Your inner ear is made up of two vestibular nerves. These nerves transmit control balance and spatial navigation information to your brain. When these nerves become inflamed, it causes otitis interna. This condition can affect people of all ages and gender.

inner ear anatomy


There are several factors that cause otitis interna such as2

Respiratory diseases

Diseases that affect your respiratory system can cause otitis interna. Respiratory illness such as bronchitis which is caused by viruses can spread and reach your inner ear where they cause an infection.


Viral infection has been considered to be one of the causes of otitis interna. Viruses in your stomach can spread and affect your inner ear. Herpes virus is also another cause of infection in your ear.

Besides viruses, bacteria can also cause infections in your ear. You can get bacteria from the environment or from your digestive system. Coming into contact with contagious microorganisms such as ticks can also cause ear infections.

Risk Factors

There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing otitis interna such as1


People who smoke cigarettes can get otitis interna.


Drinking excess alcohol is another factor that can elevate your risk of developing this condition.


People with a history of allergies are also at risk of otitis interna.


People who lead a stressful life are at risk of infections in the inner ear. Stress causes skin rash which can attract microorganisms such as bacteria which causes infection. This infection can spread to ear and cause otitis interna.


If you get fatigued easily, you are at risk of otitis interna.


Taking either prescribed or over-the-counter medications can raise your risk of getting otitis interna. Using drugs such as aspirin may make you develop this illness.


Symptoms of otitis interna start quickly and become painful for few days. The symptoms start to disappear after few days but may appear abruptly when you move your head. Otitis interna does not usually cause pain. The following are the symptoms of otitis interna2, 3:

  • The patient may have trouble focusing the eyes. You might also loss balance and experience vertigo. Patients also complain of dizziness and nausea which is accompanied with vomiting.
  • Other symptoms include buzzing or ringing in your ear, a condition known as tinnitus. You may experience hearing loss in one of your ears.

When to Seek Medical Help?

Some symptoms of otitis interna may indicate serious conditions. You need urgent medical attention if you notice the following symptoms of otitis interna1:

  • You have fever and experience double vision loss.
  • You feel general body weaknesses.
  • You experience paralysis on one side of your body.
  • You have difficulty making a speech.
  • You faint easily and experience convulsions.


Otitis interna can be diagnosed through a physical exam and clinical tests. In physical exam, your doctor observes your ear for signs and symptoms of otitis interna. Your doctor will also conduct nervous assessment to find out the cause of the condition.

Your doctor can order the following tests to confirm diagnosis of otitis interna2:

Blood tests

Blood tests can be ordered to find out the cause of the infection. Your doctor collects a sample of your blood and takes it to the laboratory for analysis to identify the cause of otitis interna.

Hearing tests

Your doctor can order hearing tests to find out if you have problems with hearing.

Imaging tests

Your doctor can order imaging tests of the ear and brain to find out the cause of otitis interna. Imaging tests that can be used include Magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography scan. CT scan is used to produce different pictures of your ear and brain. These pictures will help your doctor identify any abnormalities in your ear and brain. MRI scan is used to check for problems in your inner ear as well as the brain.

Electroencephalogram (EEG)

This is a test used to find out problems in your brain including nerves. In this procedure, powerful waves are released from a device into your brain and create images. The images are evaluated by your doctor to look for any abnormalities in your nerves.

Electronystagmography (ENG)

This is a test used to determine eye movement. In this test, your doctor will find out if you have trouble with your vision.

Otitis interna symptoms may resemble other condition and this makes it difficult to diagnose the condition properly. Your doctor will consider the following related conditions before confirming diagnosis of otitis interna:

  • Brain tumor
  • Brain hemorrhage, is a condition that causes bleeding in your brain
  • Migraine, severe headache
  • Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, a condition that affects your ear
  • Meniere’s disease, is an illness that affects the inner ear


Treatment for otitis interna focuses on treating the cause and alleviating its symptoms. Although most of the ear infections disappear without any form of treatment, it is advisable to look for proper treatment to prevent any complications that may arise2, 4.

The following treatment options can be used to treat otitis interna:


Several medications can be prescribed to treat such as

  • Corticosteroid- These drugs are used to ease inflammation and swellings in your ear. Your doctor may suggest prednisone to lower inflammation in the inner ear.
  • Drugs such as antivert may be suggested to help reduce nausea and vomiting.
  • Antihistamines such as Clarinex may be prescribed by your doctor to treat otitis interna. You can also buy over-the-counter antihistamines such as allegra.
  • Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial infection if it is the cause of otitis interna.

Since vertigo is the main symptom of otitis interna, you can relieve it by doing the following:

  • Change positions or movement slowly
  • Be calm when you have vertigo
  • Stay away from computer, television and flashing or bright light
  • Besides these self techniques, you can seek the help of a competent physiotherapist to help you learn other methods to improve your balance.

Reference List

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/labyrinthitis#treatment6
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/otitis-interna#symptoms2
  3. Otitis interna https://www.uptodate.com/contents/ear-infections-otitis-media-in-children-beyond-the-basics
  4. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/994656-overview

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