What is Purulent Labyrinthitis?

Purulent labyrinthitis is an infection in your inner ear that can affect your hearing and balance.

What is Purulent Labyrinthitis?

MSD Manual defines purulent labyrinthitis as a “a bacterial infection of the inner ear that often causes deafness and loss of balance.”

Purulent labyrinthitis commonly occurs when a person is experiencing severe acute otitis media. Acute Otitis Media is a painful type of ear infection that affects the middle ear behind the eardrum. Learn more about these types of ear infections here.

Symptoms of Purulent Labyrinthitis

The common symptoms of purulent labyrinthitis can include: 


Vertigo is a false feeling that you are spinning or moving. In some cases, the vertigo may be severe. This can make movement difficult, and affect your balance.

With purulent labyrinthitis, the vertigo may also be accompanied by nystagmus. This is: “a rapid jerking movement of the eyes in one direction alternating with a slower drift back to the original position.” (Source)

Nausea and Vomiting

A feeling of nausea and / or vomiting can be a symptom of purulent labyrinthitis. This may be caused by the experience of vertigo and feeling dizzy.


Tinnitus is also known as ‘ringing in the ear.’ It can manifest as other sounds, including buzzing, humming, hissing, whooshing and more. Read more about tinnitus here.

Hearing Loss

Purulent labyrinthitis may also cause hearing loss of varying degrees. This type of hearing loss is known as conductive hearing loss. Generally when the infection clears, hearing returns to normal.

People with purulent labyrinthitis may also have a fever and pain.

How is Purulent Labyrinthitis Diagnosed?

To diagnose Purulent Labyrinthitis, your primary healthcare physician will first assess your symptoms. If you have a combination of the common symptoms, they may suspect purulent labyrinthitis.

Your physician may then order a CT scan to look for any anomalies in your middle or inner ear. In some cases, they may also order an MRI to identify how far the infection has spread.

How is Purulent Labyrinthitis Treated?

Treatment for purulent labyrinthitis generally involves antibiotics that are given intravenously. In some cases, your doctor may also make a small incision in your eardrum to allow fluid to drain.

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