While everyone has encountered a runny nose, we don’t usually mention other types of cold symptoms because they’re less frequent. Once in a while, a cold can move into one or both ears, though you rarely hear about those. This form of cold can be more risky than a common cold and should never be neglected.
What does it feel like when you have a cold in your ear?
Your sinuses are directly connected to your ears, so it’s common to feel some blockage in your ears when you have a cold. This blockage is often relieved when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But you shouldn’t ever ignore pain inside of your ear, even when you have a cold. The eardrum can become infected if the cold goes into the ears. When it does, swelling happens. The immune system responds to the cold by creating fluid that can build up on the eardrum. So an individual with an inflamed eardrum may also experience a slow leaking of fluid from the ear. Because it’s a gradual leak, it’s most noticeable when you are sleeping on your side.
This is known as conductive hearing loss and affects how well you hear over the short term. But long term hearing loss can also occur if this inflammation forces the eardrum to burst. As a result, more permanent damage happens 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 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. Sometimes, a patient won’t even remember to mention any pain they might be feeling in their ear. But the infection has most likely reached the point where it’s causing damage to the ear if you’re feeling pain. In order to prevent further damage, the ear infection needs to be quickly addressed.
Many people who experience pain in their ear during a cold, get over their cold only to notice that the ear pain remains. Most individuals typically decide to see a hearing specialist at this time. But at this point, a considerable amount of damage has already been done. This damage frequently leads to an irreversible hearing loss, especially if you are prone to ear infections.
Over time, hearing acuity is affected by the tiny scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. In an average, healthy individual, 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 previously confined 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 deal with that ear infection?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Most people just think ear pain with a cold is normal when it really signals a much more serious cold infection. If you are experiencing persistent hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to make an appointment with us as soon as possible.
We will identify if you’re dealing with conductive, or temporary hearing loss. If this is the case, you may have an obstruction in your ear that needs to be removed 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.
If you’re struggling to hear after a cold, schedule an appointment asap.