Vestibular neuritis is an inflammation on the vestibular portion of the 8th Cranial Nerve, or the vestibulocochlear nerve – which supplies the inner ear. Viral infections such as colds, flu, covid, or herpes simplex (which is present in most of our systems) can affect the vestibular nerve. The former virus can even reactivate after a long time with no activity, when immunity is low.
Vestibular neuritis causes intense dizziness, lasting between three and 24 hours. It is often a cause to seek immediate medical assistance because the dizziness can be very uncomfortable. Immediate medication may be important because cortisone and antiviral medication may decrease the inflammatory response, sparing the extent of nerve damage. In addition, medication to relieve intense dizziness may be given, but it is important to withdraw medication that suppresses the balance function quite soon after the infection (usually within 3 days), to encourage a return to a more normal state of activity. Vestibular neuritis is not usually accompanied by hearing loss or tinnitus, as it only affects the vestibular portion of the hearing and balance nerve. If hearing loss and tinnitus are present, the inflammation could be affecting both portions of the nerve, and is therefore a different diagnosis.
A comprehensive vestibular assessment leads to the correct identification of the parts of the balance organ that have been affected. These results also allow your audiologist to plan the right rehabilitation. Recalibration of the balance system can be achieved with specific vestibular rehabilitation exercises. These exercises take a little bit of time to improve the way your brain interprets the information it is receiving from the balance organs, but they are the best way to manage this problem.