There are other symptoms of a cold that are less common than the widely recognized runny nose. One type of cold you don’t often hear about is the one that goes into one or both ears. While you may generally think of colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom shouldn’t ever be dismissed.
What does a cold in your ear feel like?
It’s not uncommon to feel some blockage in your ears when you’re experiencing a common cold. After all, your ears and sinuses are connected. This blockage is often alleviated when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But you should never disregard pain in your ear, even during a cold. The eardrum can be infected if the cold goes into the ears. When it does, inflammation occurs. Inflammation is an immune reaction that causes fluid to accumulate on the exterior of the eardrum. Often, a slow leaking fluid comes with this inflammation. This leak is most obvious when you sleep on your side because the leak is so slow.
This is called conductive hearing loss and affects how well you hear in the short term. But long term hearing loss can also take place if this inflammation causes the eardrum to burst. As a result, more permanent damage occurs to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is called sensorineural hearing loss.
Waiting could cost you
If you’re experiencing pain in your ear, have your ears examined by us. It’s not unusual for a primary care physician to wait until the cold is cleared up because they assume the ear pain will clear up with it. A patient might not even think to mention that they’re feeling actual ear pain. But the infection has probably gotten to the point where it’s doing damage to the ear if you’re feeling pain. In order to avoid additional damage, the ear infection has to be promptly treated.
In many cases, ear pain will linger even after the cold clears. This is often when an individual finally decides to see a hearing specialist. But, a great deal of damage is normally done by this time. This damage frequently results in permanent hearing loss, especially if you’re prone to ear infections.
Each time you get an infection, eardrum lacerations and scar tissue can occur which, over time, can impact hearing clarity. The eardrum is a barrier between your 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 perforated even once. When the infection goes into the inner ear, it can permanently damage 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. Most individuals just think ear pain with a cold is normal when it actually signals a much more significant cold infection. You should make an appointment for a hearing assessment as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We can determine whether the hearing loss is temporary (conductive). You might need to have an obstruction professionally removed if this is the case. If the hearing loss is permanent (sensorineural), we can talk about solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
Schedule an appointment right away if you’re having trouble hearing after a cold.