While everyone has encountered a runny nose, we don’t commonly talk about other types of cold symptoms because they are less frequent. Occasionally, a cold can move into one or both ears, though you rarely hear about those. This kind of cold can be more harmful than a common cold and should never be disregarded.
What does it feel like when you have a cold in your ear?
Your sinuses are directly connected to your ears, so it’s normal to feel some congestion in your ears during a cold. Usually, when you use a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be alleviated.
But you shouldn’t ever ignore pain inside of your ear, even during a cold. The eardrum can be infected if the cold goes into the ears. When it does, inflammation happens. The immune system responds to the cold by producing fluid that can accumulate on the eardrum. So somebody with an inflamed eardrum may also experience a slow leaking of fluid from the ear. This leak is most obvious when you sleep on your side because the leak is so slow.
This affects 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 causes the eardrum to burst. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is damage to the nerves of the ear, can then take place.
It could be costly if you wait
Come in and see us if you have any pain in your ears. It’s not unusual for a primary care physician to wait until the cold goes away because they assume the ear pain will go away with it. A patient may not even think to mention that they are feeling actual pain in the ear. But if you’re experiencing pain, the infection has advanced to a point where it is most likely doing damage to the ear. It’s critical that the ear infection be addressed immediately to prevent further harm.
In many instances, ear pain will remain even after the cold goes away. This is often when an individual finally decides to see a hearing specialist. But, a lot of damage is normally done by this time. This damage often results in an irreversible hearing loss, especially if you’re at risk of ear infections.
Each time you have an infection, eardrum perforations and scar tissue can develop which, over time, can impact hearing acuity. In a normal, healthy individual, the eardrum serves as a barrier between the middle ear and inner ear. If the eardrum becomes 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.
If you waited to get that ear infection treated, what should you do?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Most people simply assume ear pain with a cold is normal when it actually points to a much more serious cold infection. You should schedule an appointment for a hearing test as soon as you can if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We will determine if you’re coping with conductive, or short-term hearing loss. You might need to have an obstruction professionally extracted if this is the situation. If the hearing loss is permanent (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.