While everybody has encountered a runny nose, we don’t often talk about other kinds of cold symptoms because they are less frequent. Once in a while, a cold can move into one or both ears, though you rarely hear about those. While you may generally consider colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom shouldn’t ever be ignored.
What does it feel like when you have a cold in your ear?
It’s not uncommon to feel some congestion in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your ears and sinuses are linked. This blockage is often relieved when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But if you feel pain in the ears, this is something you shouldn’t ever dismiss, even when you have a cold. The eardrum can be infected if the cold goes into the ears. When it does, swelling takes place. The immune system responds to the cold by creating fluid that can accumulate on the eardrum. So someone with an inflamed eardrum might also experience a gradual leaking of fluid from the ear. This leak is most obvious when you sleep on your side because the leak is so gradual.
This is known as conductive hearing loss and impacts how well you hear over the short term. But long term hearing loss can also occur if this inflammation causes the eardrum to burst. In turn, more permanent damage happens to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is called sensorineural hearing loss.
It could cost you if you wait
If you’re noticing pain in your ear, have your ears examined by us. It’s not uncommon for a primary care doctor to wait until the cold goes away because they assume the ear pain will clear up with it. A patient might not even remember to mention that they’re experiencing actual ear pain. But the infection has most likely reached the point where it’s causing damage to the ear if you’re experiencing pain. In order to prevent additional damage, the ear infection needs to be promptly addressed.
In many circumstances, ear pain will remain even after the cold clears. This is usually when an individual finally decides to visit a hearing specialist. But, a lot of damage is normally done by this time. Irreversible hearing loss is frequently the outcome and that’s even more relevant with individuals who experience ear infections regularly.
Every time you have an infection, eardrum lacerations and scar tissue can happen which, over time, can affect hearing acuity. The eardrum is a barrier between the inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and functioning in a normal capacity. Ear infections that were previously restricted to the middle ear can get into the inner ear if the eardrum is lacerated even once. When the infection enters the inner ear, it can irreversibly damage the nerve cells needed to hear.
What should you do if you waited to address that ear infection?
Don’t beat yourself up. Most individuals simply assume ear pain with a cold is normal when it actually signals a much more significant cold infection. If you are dealing with continued hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to make an appointment with us sooner rather than later.
We will identify if you’re coping with conductive, or temporary hearing loss. If this is the case, you might have a blockage in your ear that needs to be removed by a professional. If the hearing loss is irreversible (sensorineural), we can talk about options that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
If you’re having trouble hearing after a cold, schedule an appointment asap.