While everyone has dealt with a runny nose, we don’t usually talk about other kinds of cold symptoms because they’re less frequent. One kind 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 disregarded.
What does it feel like when you get a cold in your ear?
Your sinuses are directly connected to your ears, so it’s common to feel some congestion in your ears when you have a cold. Usually, when you use a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be alleviated.
But you shouldn’t ever dismiss pain inside of your ear, even when you have a cold. The eardrum can be infected if the cold moves into the ears. And that will result in inflammation. The immune system reacts to the cold by creating fluid that can accumulate on the eardrum. Often, a slow leaking fluid accompanies 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 happen if this inflammation forces the eardrum to burst. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is damage to the nerves of the ear, can then happen.
Waiting could be costly
If you’re experiencing pain in your ear, get your ears checked by us. It’s not uncommon for a primary care physician to wait until the cold goes away because they assume the ear pain will clear up with it. A patient might not even remember to mention that they are feeling actual ear pain. But if you’re feeling pain, the infection has advanced to a point where it is most likely doing damage to the ear. It’s paramount that the ear infection be addressed immediately to prevent further damage.
Many people who develop pain in their ear during a cold, get over their cold only to find that the ear pain lingers. Most individuals typically make the decision to consult a hearing specialist at this time. But by this time, a considerable amount of damage has already been done. This damage often results in permanent hearing loss, particularly if you are prone to ear infections.
Over time, hearing clarity is impacted by the small-scale scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are the consequence of ear infections. In an average, healthy individual, the eardrum serves as a boundary between the middle ear and inner ear. Ear infections that were once confined to the middle ear can go into the inner ear if the eardrum is perforated even once. When the infection goes into the inner ear, it can irreversibly harm the nerve cells needed to hear.
If you waited to have that ear infection treated, what should you do?
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 significant cold infection. You should schedule an appointment for a hearing test as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We can determine whether the hearing loss is short-term (conductive). You may need to have an obstruction professionally removed if this is the situation. If you have 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, make an appointment asap.