While everyone has experienced a runny nose, we don’t usually talk about other types of cold symptoms because they’re less common. Occasionally, a cold can move into one or both ears, but you rarely hear about those. While you might 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?
It’s not unusual to feel some congestion in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your sinuses and ears are connected. This blockage is usually relieved when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But you should never dismiss pain inside of your ear, even when you have a cold. The eardrum can become infected if the cold moves into the ears. And that will trigger inflammation. Inflammation is an immune reaction that causes fluid to accumulate on the exterior of the eardrum. So an individual who is coping with an inflamed eardrum may also experience a slow 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 happen if this inflammation forces the eardrum to burst. In turn, more permanent damage occurs to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is called sensorineural hearing loss.
Waiting could cost you
Come in and see us if you’re dealing with any pain in your ears. It’s not unusual for a primary care physician to wait until the cold goes away because they assume the ear pain will clear up with it. Occasionally, a patient won’t even remember to mention any pain they might be feeling in their ear. But the infection has most likely reached the point where it’s doing harm to the ear if you’re feeling pain. It’s paramount that the ear infection be treated promptly to prevent further damage.
In many instances, ear pain will linger even after the cold clears. Most individuals usually make the decision to consult a hearing specialist at this time. But by this time, a considerable amount of damage has already been done. Irreversible hearing loss is frequently the outcome and that’s even more relevant with people who experience ear infections frequently.
Every time you get an infection, eardrum perforations and scar tissue can happen which, over time, can affect hearing clarity. 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 once confined 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.
If you waited to get that ear infection addressed, what should you do?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Most individuals just assume 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 exam as soon as you can if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We will identify if you’re coping with conductive, or short-term hearing loss. You might need to have a blockage professionally extracted if this is the situation. If you have sensorineural, or irreversible hearing loss, there are treatment solutions, including new hearing technology, that we can help you with.
If you’re struggling to hear after a cold, make an appointment asap.