There are other symptoms of a cold that are less common than the well known runny nose. One type of cold you don’t often 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 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 common to feel some congestion in your ears when you have a cold. Normally, when you take a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be alleviated.
But you should never disregard pain inside of your ear, even during a cold. If the cold goes into the ear, the eardrum can be infected. And that will trigger inflammation. The immune system reacts to the cold by producing fluid that can build up on the eardrum. Often, a slow leaking fluid comes with this inflammation. Because it’s a slow leak, it’s most noticeable when you sleep on your side.
This affects how well you hear over the short term, which is known as conductive hearing loss. But long term hearing loss can also occur if this inflammation causes the eardrum to burst. In turn, more permanent damage takes place 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 uncommon for a primary care doctor to wait until the cold is cleared up because they assume the ear pain will go away with it. A patient might not even remember to mention that they’re feeling actual ear pain. But if you’re experiencing pain, the infection has advanced to a point where it is most likely doing damage to the ear. In order to avoid additional damage, the ear infection needs to be quickly treated.
In many cases, ear pain will persist even after the cold clears up. This is often when an individual finally decides to visit a hearing specialist. 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 frequently.
After a while, hearing acuity is affected by the small-scale scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. In a normal, healthy person, the eardrum acts as a buffer between the middle ear and inner ear. If the eardrum becomes perforated even once, then the infection that was formerly restricted to the middle ear can now go into the inner ear, where it can harm the irreplaceable tiny nerve cells that you need to hear.
What should you do if you waited to treat that ear infection?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Most individuals simply assume ear pain with a cold is normal when it really signals a much more serious cold infection. You should make an appointment for a hearing exam as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We will identify if you’re coping with conductive, or short-term hearing loss. If this is the case, you might have an obstruction in your ear that needs to be extracted by a professional. If you’re dealing with sensorineural, or permanent 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, schedule an appointment asap.