Labyrinthitis means an inflammation of the inner ear
structure called the labyrinth. Sometimes the term labyrinthitis refers to other
causes of inner ear problems that have no inflammation because those problems produce similar symptoms.
- You have a labyrinth in each of your inner ears,
encased in thick bone near the base of your skull. As the name implies, the
labyrinth is a maze of interconnected fluid-filled channels and canals. Half
of the labyrinth, the cochlea, is shaped like a snail's shell. It sends
information about sounds to the brain. The other half looks something like a
gyroscope with 3 semicircular canals connected to an open cavern or vestibule. The vestibule portion of the labyrinth sends information to the brain regarding the position and movement of your
head. Any disturbance of the vestibule can lead to faulty information going to your brain.
- Your eyes also send positioning information to your
brain. When information from the labyrinth and the eyes don't match, the brain
has trouble interpreting what is happening. This misinterpreting often leads
to a sensation that you are spinning (vertigo) or a feeling that you are moving when in fact you are remaining still. Feelings of motion sickness (nausea and vomiting) often follow. Sometimes you will experience hearing loss or
abnormal sounds such as a high- or low-pitched ringing (tinnitus).
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
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