There are other symptoms of a cold that are less prevalent than the well known runny nose. One type of cold you don’t frequently hear about is the one that goes 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 ignored.
What does a cold in the ear feel like?
Your sinuses are directly connected to your ears, so it’s normal to feel some congestion in your ears during a cold. Normally, when you take a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be relieved.
But if you feel pain inside the ears, this is something you shouldn’t ever disregard, even when you have a cold. If the cold moves into the ear, the eardrum can be infected. When it does, inflammation happens. The immune system reacts to the cold by producing fluid that can accumulate on the eardrum. Frequently, a slow leaking fluid accompanies this inflammation. This leak is most obvious when you sleep on your side because the leak is so gradual.
This affects how well you hear over the short term, which is called conductive hearing loss. But long term hearing loss can also take place if this inflammation causes the eardrum to burst. As a result, more permanent damage takes place to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is called sensorineural hearing loss.
It could cost you if you wait
If you’re noticing ear pain, have your ears examined by us. It’s not unusual 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 might be feeling in their ear. But the infection has likely reached the point where it’s causing harm to the ear if you’re experiencing pain. In order to prevent additional damage, the ear infection needs to be quickly addressed.
Many individuals who develop ear pain during a cold, get over their cold only to find that the ear pain remains. Most people usually decide to see a hearing specialist at this point. But by this time, a lot of damage has already been done. Irreversible hearing loss is frequently the consequence and that’s even more relevant with individuals who experience ear infections regularly.
Over time, hearing acuity is impacted by the small-scale scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. 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 once confined to the middle ear can get into the inner ear if the eardrum is perforated even once. When the infection enters the inner ear, it can permanently damage the nerve cells needed to hear.
What should you do if you waited to treat that ear infection?
Don’t beat yourself up. A cold with pain in the ear can actually be a more significant cold than most people might think. You should make an appointment for a hearing assessment as soon as you can if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We will identify if you’re dealing with conductive, or temporary hearing loss. If this is the case, you may have a blockage in your ear that needs to be removed by a professional. If you’re dealing with sensorineural, or permanent hearing loss, there are treatment options, including new hearing technology, that we can help you with.
If you’re having trouble hearing after a cold, schedule an appointment asap.