Key Points about Vestibular Neuritis (Vestibular Nerve Infection)

  • Vestibular neuritis is a swelling of the inner ear nerve that can affect your sense of balance.
  • The condition affects people of all ages, but almost always adults.
  • Viral infections are a main cause of vestibular neuritis.
  • Treatment of vestibular neuritis may include a combination of medications and vestibular rehabilitation.
Common related conditions
Balance Disorder Hearing Loss Meniere's Disease Positional Vertigo Ringing in the Ear (Tinnitus)

Overview

Vestibular neuritis is a condition that affects the inner ear nerve (vestibulocochlear nerve). This condition causes the vestibulocohlear nerve to become inflamed (swollen), which affects the way that the body interprets balance and head position. The condition can occur at any age, but it rarely affects children. The vast majority of people who experience this condition don’t have a reoccurrence. 

Vestibular neuritis causes 

In many cases, a vestibular nerve infection is the cause of vestibular neuritis. Other possible causes include:

  • Swelling around the vestibulocochlear nerve
  • Viral infection, such as herpes, measles, flu, mumps, hepatitis or polio

Vestibular neuritis risk factors

If you have had a viral infection, you are at a higher risk of developing vestibular neuritis. Types of viral infections include:

  • Flu
  • Hepatitis
  • Herpes
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Polio

Vestibular neuritis symptoms

Signs and symptoms of vestibular neuritis can include:

  • Difficulty keeping your balance
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Vertigo (feeling of swaying or spinning)

Vestibular neuritis diagnosis

Your ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist may use one or more of the following diagnostic tools to diagnose your UC:

  • Hearing test. This test can help determine the extent of any hearing damage.
  • Balance test. This test evaluates how well you can keep your balance.
  • Head impulse test. Your specialist can use this test to assess how difficult it is for you to maintain focus on objects during quick head movements.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with contrast. Your specialist may order an MRI scan to rule out other conditions – such as a stroke, head injury or brain tumor – that can cause similar symptoms.

Vestibular neuritis treatment

Treatment for vestibular neuritis usually involves a combination of the following:

Nausea medication. Your specialist may prescribe nausea medication to help reduce your symptoms.

Intravenous (IV) fluids. You may need to receive IV fluids to reverse dehydration.

Vestibular suppressants. Your specialist may prescribe a type of medicine to reduce dizziness – called vestibular suppressants – to help control your symptoms. These medications are usually only for short-term use, of less than three days.

Antiviral medication. If a virus has caused your vestibular neuritis, your specialist will prescribe medication to treat the virus.

Balance rehabilitation. Your specialist may recommend you attend vestibular rehabilitation and physical therapy to help you learn strategies to cope with your balance challenges.

When should I seek care?

If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an ENT specialist for more specialized treatment.