While everybody has encountered a runny nose, we don’t often mention other kinds of cold symptoms because they’re less frequent. Occasionally, a cold can move into one or both ears, but you rarely hear about those. While you may generally think of colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom should never be disregarded.
What does a cold in the ear feel like?
It’s not unusual to feel some congestion in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your ears and sinuses are linked. This blockage is usually relieved when you use a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But you should never ignore pain in your ear, even when you have a cold. If the cold moves into the ear, the eardrum can be infected. When it does, swelling takes place. Inflammation is an immune reaction that causes fluid to build up on the exterior of the eardrum. Frequently, a slow leaking fluid comes with this inflammation. This leak is most apparent when you sleep on your side because the leak is so slow.
This impacts how well you hear over the short term, which is known as conductive hearing loss. But long term hearing loss can also occur 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, have your ears examined by us. Oftentimes, a primary doctor assumes that the ear symptoms will clear themselves up when the initial cold clears up. A patient might not even remember to mention that they’re experiencing actual pain in the ear. But if you’re feeling pain, the infection has progressed to a point where it is most likely doing damage to the ear. In order to avoid further damage, the ear infection has to be promptly addressed.
Many individuals who develop pain in their ear during a cold, get over their cold only to find that the ear pain remains. Most individuals typically decide to consult a hearing specialist at this point. But at this point, a lot of damage has already been done. Irreversible hearing loss is often the outcome and that’s even more relevant with people who get ear infections regularly.
Over time, hearing clarity is affected by the small-scale scars and perforations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. The eardrum is a buffer between the inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and working in a normal capacity. Ear infections that were previously confined to the middle ear can go into the inner ear if the eardrum is perforated even once. When the infection enters the inner ear, it can irreversibly damage the nerve cells needed to hear.
If you waited to have that ear infection addressed, what should you do?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Most people just assume 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 schedule an appointment with us sooner rather than later.
We can determine whether the hearing loss is short-term (conductive). If this is the situation, you might have an obstruction in your ear that needs to be extracted by a professional. If the hearing loss is irreversible (sensorineural), we can discuss options that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
Make an appointment right away if you’re having difficulty hearing after a cold.