While everybody has dealt with a runny nose, we don’t commonly talk about other kinds of cold symptoms because they are less common. One type of cold you don’t often hear about is the one that moves into one or more ears. This type of cold can be more risky than a common cold and should never be ignored.
What does a cold in the ear feel like?
It’s not abnormal to feel some congestion in your ears when you’re experiencing a common cold. After all, your sinuses and ears are linked. This blockage is usually relieved when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But if you experience pain inside the ears, this is something you should never ignore, even during a cold. The eardrum can become infected if the cold goes into the ears. And that will cause inflammation. The immune system reacts to the cold by generating fluid that can build up on the eardrum. So a person with an inflamed eardrum might also experience a gradual leaking of fluid from the ear. Because it’s a slow leak, it’s most pronounced when you are sleeping on your side.
This is known as conductive hearing loss and impacts 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. In turn, more permanent damage occurs to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is called sensorineural hearing loss.
Waiting could be costly
Come in and see us if you’re experiencing any pain in your ears. 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. Sometimes, a patient will even forget to mention any pain they might be feeling in their ear. But the infection has likely reached the point where it’s doing damage to the ear if you’re experiencing pain. It’s critical that the ear infection be addressed immediately to avoid further harm.
Many people who experience pain in their ear during a cold, get over their cold only to find that the ear pain lingers. Most people usually make the decision to see a hearing specialist at this time. But at this point, a lot of damage has already been done. This damage frequently causes permanent hearing loss, particularly if you are at risk of ear infections.
Each time you have an infection, eardrum lacerations and scar tissue can develop which, over time, can impact hearing acuity. In an average, healthy person, the eardrum acts as a barrier between the middle ear and inner ear. If the eardrum gets perforated even once, then the infection that was formerly confined to the middle ear can now go into the inner ear, where it can damage 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 beat yourself up. Most individuals simply assume ear pain with a cold is normal when it really signals a much more serious cold infection. You should make an appointment for a hearing exam as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We will determine if you’re dealing with conductive, or short-term hearing loss. You might need to have a blockage professionally removed if this is the situation. If you’re dealing with sensorineural, or irreversible hearing loss, there are treatment options, including new hearing technology, that we can help you with.
If you’re struggling to hear after a cold, schedule an appointment asap.