While everybody has dealt with a runny nose, we don’t often talk about other types of cold symptoms because they are less common. One kind of cold you don’t frequently hear about is the one that goes into one or more ears. This kind of cold can be more risky than a common cold and should never be dismissed.
What does it feel like when you get a cold in your ear?
It’s not uncommon to feel some congestion in your ears when you’re experiencing a common cold. After all, your sinuses and ears are connected. This blockage is often alleviated when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But you should never dismiss pain in your ear, even when you have a cold. The eardrum can be infected if the cold moves into the ears. And that will trigger inflammation. Inflammation is an immune reaction that causes fluid to build up on the exterior of the eardrum. Frequently, a slow leaking fluid accompanies this inflammation. This leak is most obvious when you sleep on your side because the leak is so slow.
This is called conductive hearing loss and impacts how well you hear over the short term. 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
Come in and see us if you’re experiencing any pain in your ears. It’s not uncommon for a primary care doctor to wait until the cold is cleared up because they assume the ear pain will clear up with it. A patient may not even think 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. It’s critical that the ear infection be treated immediately to avoid more harm.
Many individuals who develop pain in their ear during a cold, get over their cold only to notice that the ear pain remains. Most people usually decide to see a hearing specialist at this point. But, a great deal of damage is normally done by this time. This damage frequently leads to an irreversible hearing loss, especially if you are prone to ear infections.
After a while, hearing clarity is impacted by the small-scale scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. The eardrum is a barrier between your inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and working in a normal capacity. If the eardrum becomes perforated even once, then the infection that was formerly restricted 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.
If you waited to have that ear infection addressed, what should you do?
Don’t beat yourself up. A cold with pain in the ear can actually be a more serious cold than most people may think. If you are experiencing persistent 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 short-term (conductive). If this is the case, you may have an obstruction in your ear that needs to be extracted by a professional. If the hearing loss is irreversible (sensorineural), we can talk about solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
Schedule an appointment right away if you’re having trouble hearing after a cold.