Inner Ear Infections & Vestibular Conditions

Vestibular neuritis and labyrinthitis are impairments of the inner ear after an ear infection. The inner ear becomes inflamed as well as the nerves that transmit the necessary information the brain. There are two types of information transmitted from the inner ear to the brain, hearing and balance. The inflammation can cause only balance trouble (neuritis) or both hearing and balance trouble (labyrinthitis). Both can cause dizziness and vertigo but only labyrinthitis will cause hearing difficulty. The most common cause of these conditions is an inner ear infection with viral causes being more common than bacterial causes.

Symptoms of both conditions include dizziness and vertigo (spinning sensation) as well as nausea, vomiting, and balance difficulty. Only labyrinthitis will produce tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or hearing loss. The symptoms can last up to 3-6 weeks during the acute phase. Medications may be prescribed by your physician during the acute phase to suppress the dizziness or fight the viral or bacterial cause.

In some people, symptoms completely subside without the need for additional treatment. There are cases where symptoms can persist. These symptoms can include some remaining dizziness/vertigo, difficulty in busy environments like a grocery store or shopping mall, or balance trouble to name a few. Symptoms in this phase are generally not as severe as the acute phase, but can be very frustrating and activity limiting to the person experiencing them. The reason for the persistent trouble is that there is an imbalance between our ears and our brain has not adapted yet. There is some good news though. There is a solution!

A vestibular rehabilitation program can help speed the recovery during the chronic phase. A physical therapist specializing in vestibular rehab will take you through an initial evaluation focused on your balance and a few vision tests. The program can help our vestibular system adapt and recover to help those daily activities that may increase symptoms become much easier. To summarize, vestibular rehab helps our brain adjust to the imbalance which reduces symptoms!

If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, especially if you remember a recent ear infection before the problem began, do not hesitate to speak with your physician or contact any of our Strive locations!

Gerard Smith

Jerry graduated from Arcadia University in 2013 where he was a Division III Baseball Catcher. He then went on to earn a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Arcadia in 2016 and completed his final 6 month clinical rotation at Strive Physical Therapy in Marlton. Jerry has taken his baseball experience to help enhance his approach to pitchers and other baseball players.

In the near future, Jerry plans on completing an Orthopaedic Residency Program and furthering his education in vestibular therapy. Fewer than 5% of physical therapist complete a residency as this is a program designed to improve his clinical thinking and mentorship with some of the best therapists in the field of orthopedics. His clinical interests include a wide variety of orthopedic diagnoses including low back pain and lower extremity injuries. Jerry uses a patient-centered approach where he empowers his patients and provides excellent care to help them reach their goals. In his free time, Jerry enjoys spending time with his family and friends and coaching a youth baseball team.

Contact Gerard Smith, PT, DPT

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