While everyone has experienced a runny nose, we don’t usually talk about other kinds of cold symptoms because they are less frequent. One type of cold you don’t frequently hear about is the one that goes into one or more ears. While you might generally consider colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom should never be dismissed.
What does a cold in the ear feel like?
It’s not unusual to feel some congestion in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your sinuses and ears are linked. This blockage is often relieved when you use a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But if you feel pain inside the ears, this is something you should never ignore, even when you have a cold. The eardrum can become infected if the cold moves into the ears. When it does, inflammation takes place. The immune system responds to the cold by generating fluid that can accumulate on the eardrum. Frequently, a slow leaking fluid comes with this inflammation. This leak is most apparent when you sleep on your side because the leak is so slow.
This is known as conductive hearing loss and impacts how well you hear in the short term. But long term hearing loss can also occur if this inflammation causes the eardrum to burst. In turn, more permanent damage occurs to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is called sensorineural hearing loss.
It could be costly if you wait
Come in and see us if you’re experiencing any pain in your ears. It’s not unusual for a primary care doctor to wait until the cold is cleared up because they assume the ear pain will clear up with it. Sometimes, a patient will even forget to mention any pain they might be feeling in their ear. But the infection has likely reached the point where it’s doing damage to the ear if you’re experiencing pain. In order to prevent further damage, the ear infection has to be quickly addressed.
Many people who experience pain in their ear during a cold, get over their cold only to discover that the ear pain remains. This is often when a person finally decides to go to a hearing specialist. But, a lot of damage is usually done by this time. This damage frequently leads to permanent hearing loss, especially if you’re at risk of ear infections.
Over time, hearing clarity is impacted by the tiny scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. The eardrum is a barrier between the inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and working in a normal capacity. Ear infections that were once confined to the middle ear can go into the inner ear if the eardrum is perforated even once. When the infection enters the inner ear, it can irreversibly harm the nerve cells needed to hear.
If you waited to have that ear infection addressed, what should you do?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. A cold with pain in the ear can actually be a more significant cold than most individuals might think. You should make an appointment for a hearing test as soon as you can if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We can assess whether the hearing loss is temporary (conductive). If this is the situation, you may have a blockage in your ear that needs to be extracted by a professional. If you’re dealing with sensorineural, or permanent hearing loss, there are treatment options, including new hearing technology, that we can help you with.
If you’re having trouble hearing after a cold, make an appointment asap.