Science Questions

Sun, 25th Jun 2006

Part of the show Naked Q&A and The Life of Benjamin Franklin


Katherine in Felixstowe asked:

What causes labyrinthitis and is there a cure?


The labyrinths are part of your inner ear and there are fluid-filled cavities in the ear. They don't just power your hearing but they power your balance organs as well. When you move your head, the fluid moves a little bit and it moves hairs inside that system. The hairs are connected to nerves, and those nerves signal to the brain which direction your body is moving in. The brain tells the eyes how to compensate and how your muscles should move to compensate for your moving so that you retain your balance. Occasionally things can happen to make that system go awry. There are a whole host of reasons why, but a common cause is the common cold or a viral infection and it can cause quite long term changes to that part of the ear. It can cause you to feel a bit giddy for quite some time, but it does go away eventually if it genuinely is labyrinthitis. There's no magic cure, so you just need to give it time.


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