There are other symptoms of a cold that are less prevalent than the widely recognized runny nose. One kind of cold you don’t frequently hear about is the one that moves into one or both ears. While you may generally think of colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom should never be ignored.
What does it feel like when you get a cold in your ear?
It’s not uncommon to feel some blockage in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your sinuses and ears are linked. This blockage is usually relieved when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But you should never ignore pain inside of your ear, even during a cold. If the cold moves into the ear, the eardrum can become infected. When it does, inflammation occurs. The immune system reacts to the cold by generating fluid that can accumulate on the eardrum. Often, a slow leaking fluid accompanies this inflammation. Because it’s a slow leak, it’s most noticeable when you are sleeping on your side.
This affects how well you hear over the short term, which is known as conductive hearing loss. Unfortunately, it can also cause the eardrum to burst, which brings about long-term hearing loss. As a result, more permanent damage occurs to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is called sensorineural hearing loss.
It could cost you if you wait
Come in and see us if you have any pain in your ears. It’s not uncommon 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 won’t even remember to mention any pain they may be experiencing in their ear. But if you’re feeling pain, the infection has progressed to a point where it is most likely doing damage to the ear. It’s critical that the ear infection be treated promptly to avoid more harm.
Many individuals who experience ear pain during a cold, get over their cold only to notice that the ear pain lingers. Most individuals typically make the decision to see a hearing specialist at this point. But at this point, a lot of damage has already been done. Permanent hearing loss is frequently the consequence and that’s even more relevant with people who get ear infections regularly.
Every time you get an infection, eardrum perforations and scar tissue can occur which, over time, can affect hearing acuity. The eardrum is a buffer between the inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and working in a normal capacity. Ear infections that were previously 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 permanently harm the nerve cells needed to hear.
What should you do if you waited to deal with that ear infection?
Don’t beat yourself up. Most individuals just think ear pain with a cold is normal when it really points to 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 can determine whether the hearing loss is temporary (conductive). If this is the case, you may have a blockage in your ear that needs to be extracted by a professional. If the hearing loss is permanent (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 difficulty hearing after a cold.