While everybody has experienced a runny nose, we don’t often mention other types of cold symptoms because they’re less common. One kind of cold you don’t often hear about is the one that goes into one or both ears. While you may generally consider colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom should never be dismissed.
What does it feel like when you have a cold in your ear?
Your sinuses are directly interconnected to your ears, so it’s common to feel some blockage in your ears during a cold. This blockage is often alleviated when you use a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But if you experience pain in the ears, this is something you shouldn’t ever ignore, even when you have a cold. If the cold moves into the ear, the eardrum can be infected. When it does, swelling happens. Inflammation is an immune response that causes fluid to accumulate on the exterior of the eardrum. Frequently, a slow leaking fluid accompanies this inflammation. Because it’s a gradual leak, it’s most pronounced when you are sleeping on your side.
This impacts how well you hear in the short term, which is known as conductive hearing loss. Sadly, it can also cause the eardrum to burst, which results in long-term hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is damage to the nerves of the ear, can then occur.
It could be costly if you wait
Come in and see us if you’re experiencing any pain in your ears. It’s not uncommon for a primary care physician to wait until the cold goes away because they assume the ear pain will go away with it. A patient may not even think to mention that they are feeling actual ear pain. But if you’re feeling pain, the infection has progressed to a point where it is likely doing damage to the ear. In order to prevent further damage, the ear infection has to be quickly treated.
In many instances, ear pain will persist even after the cold clears. This is often when an individual finally decides to see a hearing specialist. But, a lot of damage is normally done by this time. Irreversible hearing loss is often the outcome and that’s even more true with individuals who experience ear infections frequently.
Each time you get an infection, eardrum perforations and scar tissue can develop which, over time, can impact hearing acuity. The eardrum is a buffer between your inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and functioning in a normal capacity. If the eardrum gets perforated even once, then the infection that was formerly restricted to the middle ear can now go into the inner ear, where it can damage the irreplaceable tiny nerve cells that you need to hear.
If you waited to get that ear infection treated, what should you do?
Don’t beat yourself up. Most people just think ear pain with a cold is normal when it actually signals a much more serious cold infection. You should schedule an appointment for a hearing assessment as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We will determine if you’re dealing with conductive, or short-term hearing loss. You might need to have a blockage professionally removed if this is the situation. If the hearing loss is irreversible (sensorineural), we can talk about options that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
Make an appointment as soon as possible if you’re having trouble hearing after a cold.