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Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of a structure in your inner ear called the labyrinth. You have a labyrinth in your inner ears, deep in the bone at the base of your skull. It contains the delicate structures that control your hearing and balance.

Each labyrinth is a maze of inter-connected channels filled with fluid. These channels are at different angles. When your head moves, the rolling of the fluid tells your brain how far, how fast and in what direction your head is moving. This information allows your body to balance properly. Part of the labyrinth, called the cochlea, also sends information about sounds to your brain. This is how you hear.

If the organs that control balance of your infected ear are inflamed, then the information they send to your brain will be different from the information sent from your unaffected ear and from your eyes. This difference can make you feel dizzy, or you may feel you are moving when you are still (vertigo). If the hearing portion of the labyrinth is inflamed then your hearing can be affected.

Labyrinthitis is usually caused by a viral infection. Less commonly, it can be caused by a bacterial infection. It is usually a mild condition that passes within a few weeks, although some cases are more serious and can do permanent damage to your hearing and balance. Labyrinthitis can affect people of any age, but it is rare in children.