There are other symptoms of a cold that are less common than the widely recognized runny nose. One type of cold you don’t frequently hear about is the one that moves into one or more ears. While you might generally think of colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom should never be dismissed.
What does it feel like when you have a cold in your ear?
It’s not abnormal to feel some congestion in your ears when you’re experiencing a common cold. After all, your ears and sinuses are connected. This blockage is usually alleviated when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But if you feel pain inside the ears, this is something you shouldn’t ever dismiss, even during a cold. If the cold goes into the ear, the eardrum can be infected. And that will result in inflammation. The immune system reacts to the cold by producing fluid that can accumulate on the eardrum. So an individual with an inflamed eardrum may also experience a gradual leaking of fluid from the ear. Because it’s a slow leak, it’s most pronounced when you sleep on your side.
This is called conductive hearing loss and affects how well you hear over the short term. But long term hearing loss can also occur if this inflammation causes the eardrum to burst. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is injury to the nerves of the ear, can then take place.
Waiting could cost you
If you’re noticing pain in your ear, get your ears examined by us. In many cases, a primary physician assumes that the ear symptoms will clear themselves up when the primary cold does. A patient might not even think to mention that they are experiencing actual pain in the ear. But if you’re feeling pain, the infection has advanced to a point where it is likely doing damage to the ear. In order to prevent further damage, the ear infection needs to be quickly addressed.
Many individuals who develop pain in their ear during a cold, get over their cold only to notice that the ear pain lingers. Most people typically make the decision to see a hearing specialist at this time. But at this point, a lot of damage has already been done. Permanent hearing loss is frequently the result and that’s even more relevant with people who experience ear infections frequently.
Over time, hearing acuity is impacted by the tiny scars and perforations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. In a normal, healthy person, the eardrum acts as a boundary between the middle ear and inner ear. 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 goes into the inner ear, it can permanently damage the nerve cells needed to hear.
What should you do if you waited to deal with that ear infection?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Most people simply think ear pain with a cold is normal when it really points to a much more serious cold infection. If you’re experiencing continued hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to make an appointment with us as soon as possible.
We will determine if you’re dealing with conductive, or short-term hearing loss. 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 irreversible (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 trouble hearing after a cold.