There are other symptoms of a cold that are less common than the well known runny nose. One kind of cold you don’t frequently hear about is the one that goes 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 disregarded.
What does it feel like when you have a cold in your ear?
Your sinuses are directly interconnected to your ears, so it’s normal to feel some blockage in your ears during a cold. Normally, when you take a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be alleviated.
But if you experience pain in the ears, this is something you should never disregard, even when you have a cold. The eardrum can be infected if the cold goes into the ears. And that will result in inflammation. The immune system reacts to the cold by generating fluid that can collect on the eardrum. So a person who is coping 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 take place if this inflammation forces the eardrum to burst. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is damage to the nerves of the ear, can then occur.
It could be costly if you wait
Come in and see us if you’re experiencing 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 go away with it. A patient may not even remember to mention that they are feeling actual pain in the ear. But the infection has probably gotten to the point where it’s doing harm to the ear if you’re feeling pain. In order to avoid further damage, the ear infection has to be promptly addressed.
In many cases, ear pain will remain even after the cold clears. Most individuals typically decide to consult a hearing specialist at this point. But by this time, a lot of damage has already been done. This damage often results in permanent hearing loss, especially if you are prone to ear infections.
Every time you get an infection, eardrum perforations and scar tissue can develop which, over time, can affect hearing acuity. The eardrum is a barrier between the inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and working in a normal capacity. Ear infections that were once restricted to the middle ear can get into the inner ear if the eardrum is lacerated even once. When the infection enters the inner ear, it can irreversibly 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 serious cold than most individuals might think. You should schedule an appointment for a hearing exam 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 might need to have an obstruction professionally removed if this is the situation. If the hearing loss is permanent (sensorineural), we can discuss solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
If you’re having trouble hearing after a cold, schedule an appointment asap.