Diagnosing labyrinthitis 

Many conditions can cause dizziness and vertigo. Your GP will usually diagnose labyrinthitis based on your symptoms, your medical history and a physical examination.

Your GP may carry out the following tests:

  • a physical examination – you may be asked to move your head or body and your ears will be checked for signs of inflammation and infection
  • hearing tests – labyrinthitis is more likely 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 because testing for infection would damage the labyrinth.

Doctors can usually safely assume that labyrinthitis is the result of a viral infection (more common) 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 common bacterial labyrinthitis symptoms, 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:


Page last reviewed: 30/01/2015

Next review due: 30/01/2017