Because of difficulties in studying acute deafness and vertigo in humans, animal models of viral labyrinthitis have played an important role in increasing our understanding of how viruses damage the inner ear. Investigators have been able to correlate viral labyrinthine infection to histopathologic changes and electrophysiologic consequences in experimental animals. Experimental viral labyrinthitis studies have convincingly demonstrated the selective vulnerability of inner ear cell types to different viruses. These findings are relatively consistent across animal species for many viruses. By understanding the pathogenesis of viral labyrinthitis in an animal model, we may learn how better to prevent or treat virus-induced deafness and vertigo in humans.