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Labyrinthitis - Diagnosing labyrinthitis

Your GP will usually diagnose labyrinthitis based on your symptoms, your medical history and a physical examination.

Many medical conditions can cause dizziness and vertigo, so your GP will carry out tests to determine whether you have labyrinthitis. These may include:

  • a physical examination – your GP may try to reproduce any feelings of dizziness or vertigo by asking you to turn your head quickly or to change the position of your body
  • hearing tests – labyrinthitis is more likely to be the cause of your symptoms if you have hearing loss

Your GP will also check your eyes. If they are flickering uncontrollably, it is usually a sign that your vestibular system (the body's balancing system) is not working properly.

Viral or bacterial labyrinthitis?

There is no reliable test to determine whether labyrinthitis is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. This is because it is currently impossible to directly test for infection without damaging the delicate structures that make up the labyrinth.

As viral labyrinthitis is much more common, doctors can usually safely assume that labyrinthitis is the result of a viral infection unless there is strong evidence to suggest otherwise, such as:

  • the labyrinthitis is in a very young child
  • labyrinthitis occurs in someone who is already known to have a bacterial infection
  • you have symptoms that are more commonly associated with bacterial labyrinthitis, such as nausea, vomiting and complete hearing loss

Further testing

Further testing is usually only required if you have additional symptoms that suggest you may have a more serious condition, such as meningitis or a stroke. Symptoms can include:

  • severe headache
  • mental confusion
  • slurred speech
  • weakness or paralysis on one side of your body

These tests can include:

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