Inner Ear Infection

Meanings of Inner Ear Infection

Depending on the structure of the inner ear affected by an inner ear infection, the affected person will experience different symptoms. Early therapeutic measures often have a positive effect on the healing process.

What is an inner ear infection?

According to abbreviationfinder, an inner ear infection primarily manifests itself as severe ear pain. The pain usually occurs in connection with a cold or flu and develops gradually.

Inner ear inflammation is also referred to in medicine as so-called labyrinthitis. An inner ear infection can affect various structures in the inner ear, such as the so-called cochlea (which communicates an auditory impression in connection with the brain in humans) and the vestibular system.

Depending on the area of ​​the inner ear that is affected by an infection, the affected person can experience different symptoms. The symptoms of an inner ear infection include, for example, earache, tinnitus (where the person concerned hears noises even though there is no external source of noise) and hearing loss as well as nausea and dizziness.

If an inner ear infection is severe or if it is not treated adequately medically, a hearing impairment that occurs can also lead to a complete hearing loss.


An inner ear infection can have various causes. The inflammation can either start directly in the inner ear or spread from other areas of the ear (such as the middle ear) to the inner ear.

Possible external causes of an inner ear infection include injuries to the ear or surgical procedures performed on the ear. An inner ear infection caused by infections in other parts of the body is caused by bacteria or viruses, for example:

If there are such germs in the blood, they can reach the inner ear via the meninges and auditory nerve and cause inflammation there. If an inner ear infection is bacterial, it is usually caused by an existing middle ear infection or meningitis (inflammation of the meninges) that is spreading into the inner ear.

Possible causes of a viral inner ear infection are, for example, inflammation of the upper respiratory tract (i.e. the nose or paranasal sinuses) that spread to the inner ear.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

An inner ear infection primarily manifests itself as severe ear pain. The pain usually occurs in connection with a cold or flu and develops gradually. As the disease progresses, hearing problems can develop, including hearing loss. Many of those affected suffer from tinnitus or dizziness.

Nausea and vomiting, as well as a general feeling of being unwell, are often present. If the inner ear infection progresses, the symptoms increase and there is a risk that the inflammation will spread to surrounding areas of the body. In the worst case, the affected person loses the ability to hear completely. Due to the hearing problems and the persistent pain, sleep disorders often occur, which can cause tiredness, irritability and comparable secondary symptoms.

In isolated cases, the inner ear infection spreads to the middle ear, which can lead to a serious infection. Externally, an inflammation of the inner ear cannot usually be detected. However, there may be slight reddening in the area around the entrance to the ear, and fluid occasionally leaks out of the ear. If treated early, the symptoms and discomfort will resolve on their own within a few days. The hearing problems may persist for a few days to weeks after recovery.

Diagnosis & History

An inner ear infection can cause severe ear pain.

In order to diagnose an existing inner ear inflammation or to identify the organs of the inner ear affected by the inflammation, various diagnostic methods must be used. These procedures include, for example, the so-called otoscopy (ear examination); Otoscopy allows the doctor treating you to view the external auditory canal with a medical instrument.

With the help of the so-called audiometry (the measurement of hearing ability through hearing tests) possible hearing losses due to an inner ear infection can be checked. Other diagnostic options for checking an inner ear infection include, for example, balance tests or the implementation of so-called imaging procedures (such as computed tomography / CT).

The course of an inner ear infection differs depending on the patient and the extent of the inflammation. The healing process of an inner ear infection can vary from a few days to several months. In the case of an inner ear infection, severe symptoms often appear, especially during the first few days, which then gradually subside. Persistent damage such as dizziness is rare but possible.


In most cases, inner ear infections can be treated relatively well if treatment is started early. There are no special complications or complaints and there are no consequential damages. In most cases, those affected by the inner ear infection suffer from severe ear pain and, as the disease progresses, also from hearing loss.

If left untreated, the sufferer may lose hearing completely. Noise or tinnitus in the ear can also occur. These noises reduce the quality of life significantly and can also lead to sleep problems at night. It is not uncommon for the patient to be irritated by the inner ear infection in general and suffer from nausea.

The diagnosis of this inflammation is usually relatively simple, so that early treatment is possible. Inner ear infections are treated with medication and antibiotics. There are no complications and the symptoms can be limited well. However, the affected person must protect his or her ear. There is no permanent damage and life expectancy is not reduced by this inflammation.

When should you go to the doctor?

Sudden onset of dizziness, unsteady gait or vomiting indicate health problems. A doctor should be consulted as soon as these symptoms persist for several days or occur repeatedly. In the case of ringing in the ears, tinnitus or feelings of numbness, it is necessary to have a check-up carried out as soon as possible. Decreased hearing, balance problems, or uncontrolled eye movements are causes for concern. A doctor should be consulted so that the symptoms can be clarified. If there is pain in the ear or head, a feeling of pressure inside the head or a pulling sensation in the ear, a doctor should be consulted.

If existing pain increases or if sleep disorders or attention deficits set in, a medical examination must be initiated. If an unusual amount of secretion collects in the ear or if this secretion smells strange, a doctor’s visit is necessary. If existing symptoms spread or increase in intensity, a doctor should be consulted. If the everyday performance requirements can no longer be met or if problems arise when performing sporting activities, a doctor must examine the symptoms. If the inflammation spreads, the affected person threatens lifelong impairments without treatment. Therefore, a doctor’s visit is recommended at the first discrepancies. For itching in the ear, differences between the ears in hearing perception and changes in speech,

Treatment & Therapy

An individual therapy of the inner ear infection can be carried out in different ways. For example, acute symptoms of an inner ear infection can be treated with medication; Among other things, pain-relieving and/or anti-inflammatory drugs are used here.

In order for medication to be used effectively, it is first important to know whether the inner ear infection was caused by bacteria or viruses: If bacteria are responsible for an inner ear infection, antibiotics can be used. If, on the other hand, viruses have caused the inflammatory processes, doctors often prescribe antiviral drugs.

If the inflammation is neither viral nor bacterial (e.g. as a result of injuries), drug treatment can be limited to anti-inflammatory drugs. The drug treatment of an inner ear infection can, for example, be supplemented by infusions with a circulation-enhancing effect.

If an inner ear infection is accompanied by prolonged vomiting, this can lead to a high level of fluid loss; here, a short-term hospital stay can make sense in individual cases. If meningitis has led to an inner ear infection, surgical intervention may be necessary in severe cases.

Outlook & Forecast

An inner ear infection can be treated well. If the inflammation is detected early, the prospect of a speedy recovery is good. However, typical symptoms such as pain or limited hearing can persist for a few days. In addition, the prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs can sometimes lead to side effects. The patient may then have to seek alternative therapies. In general, however, the prognosis is positive. Serious complications can only occur if treatment is inadequate or absent.

An inner ear infection can spread to the middle ear and surrounding areas, causing hearing loss. In severe cases, this hearing loss is permanent, resulting in severe limitations in everyday life and often psychological problems. Labyrinthitis in children has a slightly poorer prognosis because the ear canals are still growing. In severe cases, permanent damage occurs that permanently reduces hearing. There are also risks in pregnant women and in people with previous illnesses such as an immune deficiency or an existing hearing impairment. These high-risk patients can improve the prospect of a full recovery by having the inner ear infection clarified quickly.


An inner ear infection can be prevented, for example, by treating other inflammations in the head area at an early stage. In order to counteract a worsening of the symptoms and/or possible long-term or long-term consequences of an existing inner ear infection, an early visit to the doctor (as soon as the first symptoms appear) is important.


After the inner ear infection has healed, patients must undergo a final medical examination. The ear, nose and throat doctor will check the inner ear again to determine any inflammation, secretions or redness. Finally, a patient consultation is held to clarify open questions and to ensure that the inner ear infection has completely subsided.

Further follow-up examinations are not necessary in most cases. In the case of chronic labyrinthitis, the patient and doctor must consult closely, since the type and intensity of the symptoms can vary greatly. Insomnia and gastrointestinal problems in particular need to be monitored by a doctor if they keep recurring.

In the long term, other diseases can also occur and lead to massive restrictions in the quality of life. Therefore, patients should consult a medical professional closely. As part of the aftercare, which is carried out by the responsible ENT doctor, medication such as painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs may have to be taken.

Accompanying this, successful aftercare always includes prevention. Labyrinthitis can quickly develop into a chronic disease if possible causes such as poor personal hygiene or constant noise exposure of the inner ear are not addressed. It is important to identify and eliminate the triggers.

You can do that yourself

In the case of labyrinthitis, it is important that the symptoms are correctly interpreted and that appropriate treatment is started as soon as possible. The patient can best contribute to this. An inner ear infection should never be downplayed and should only be treated by yourself. Anyone who notices severe dizziness, nausea and hearing impairment should not dismiss this as the onset of a cold, but consult an ear, nose and throat specialist immediately.

If labyrinthitis is diagnosed, the patient should rest for some time and, if possible, stay in bed. This also reduces the risk of accidents, which is greatly increased in labyrinthitis due to the often affected balance organ. In addition to the therapy prescribed by a doctor, heat is a great help for many patients against pain and feelings of pressure in the ear. To do this, the ear can be irradiated with red light or simply a hot potato wrapped in a towel can be placed on it.

The ears should also be protected during this time. Reading is therefore a better pastime than loud television or noisy video or computer games. The use of headphones and earplugs should also be avoided until the middle ear infection has healed.

Inner Ear Infection

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