While everyone has dealt with a runny nose, we don’t commonly talk about other kinds of cold symptoms because they’re less frequent. One kind of cold you don’t often hear about is the one that moves into one or more ears. While you might 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 get a cold in your ear?
Your sinuses are directly interconnected to your ears, so it’s normal to feel some blockage in your ears during a cold. Normally, when you use a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be relieved.
But if you experience pain inside the ears, this is something you should never ignore, even when you have a cold. If the cold moves into the ear, the eardrum can become infected. And that will trigger inflammation. The immune system responds to the cold by producing fluid that can build up on the eardrum. So someone who is coping with an inflamed eardrum may also experience a slow leaking of fluid from the ear. This leak is most apparent when you sleep on your side because the leak is so gradual.
This affects how well you hear in the short term, which is called conductive hearing loss. Regrettably, it can also cause the eardrum to burst, which results in 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 be costly if you wait
Come in and see us if you’re dealing with any pain in your ears. Oftentimes, a primary physician assumes that the ear symptoms will go away when the primary cold clears up. A patient may not even think to mention that they’re feeling actual pain in the ear. But if you’re experiencing pain, the infection has progressed to a point where it is most likely doing damage to the ear. It’s paramount that the ear infection be treated immediately 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 decide to consult a hearing specialist at this point. But, a lot of damage is usually done by this time. This damage frequently results in an irreversible hearing loss, especially if you are prone to ear infections.
Each time you have an infection, eardrum lacerations and scar tissue can develop which, over time, can affect hearing clarity. The eardrum is a buffer between your 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 lacerated even once. When the infection enters the inner ear, it can irreversibly harm the nerve cells needed to hear.
What should you do if you waited to treat that ear infection?
Don’t beat yourself up. Most people just assume ear pain with a cold is normal when it actually points to a much more significant cold infection. If you’re dealing with continued hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible.
We can assess whether the hearing loss is short-term (conductive). You might need to have an obstruction professionally extracted if this is the case. If the hearing loss is permanent (sensorineural), we can discuss solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
If you’re having trouble hearing after a cold, schedule an appointment asap.