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 moves into one or more ears. While you might generally consider colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom shouldn’t ever be disregarded.
What does a cold in your ear feel like?
Your sinuses are directly interconnected to your ears, so it’s normal to feel some blockage in your ears during a cold. Usually, when you take a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be alleviated.
But you should never dismiss pain in your ear, even when you have a cold. The eardrum can become infected if the cold goes into the ears. When it does, swelling happens. The immune system responds 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 are sleeping on your side.
This is called conductive hearing loss and impacts how well you hear over the short term. Sadly, it can also cause the eardrum to burst, which brings about long-term hearing loss. In turn, more permanent damage occurs to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is known as sensorineural hearing loss.
It could be costly if you wait
If you’re experiencing ear pain, have your ears checked by us. 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. Sometimes, a patient won’t even remember to mention any pain they might be feeling in their ear. But the infection has likely gotten to the point where it’s causing damage to the ear if you’re experiencing pain. In order to prevent further damage, the ear infection has to be quickly addressed.
In many instances, ear pain will linger even after the cold goes away. This is usually when an individual finally decides to see a hearing specialist. But at this point, a considerable amount of damage has already been done. This damage often causes permanent hearing loss, particularly if you’re prone to ear infections.
After a while, hearing clarity is affected by the tiny scars and perforations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. In a normal, 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 permanently damage the nerve cells needed to hear.
What should you do if you waited to treat that ear infection?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. A cold with pain in the ear can actually be a more serious cold than most individuals may think. If you’re dealing with continued hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to make an appointment with us as soon as possible.
We can determine whether the hearing loss is temporary (conductive). If this is the case, you might have a blockage in your ear that needs to be removed by a professional. If the hearing loss is permanent (sensorineural), we can talk about solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
Schedule an appointment as soon as possible if you’re having trouble hearing after a cold.