Evanston Audiology - Evanston, IL

Man blowing his nose sick with a common cold

While everyone has dealt with a runny nose, we don’t often mention other kinds of cold symptoms because they are less frequent. Occasionally, a cold can move into one or more ears, though you rarely hear about those. This kind of cold can be more harmful than a common cold and should never be neglected.

What does it feel like when you have a cold in your ear?

Your sinuses are directly linked to your ears, so it’s normal to feel some blockage in your ears when you have a cold. This blockage is often relieved when you use a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.

But if you feel pain in the ears, this is something you should never dismiss, even during a cold. If the cold goes into the ear, the eardrum can become infected. And that will result in inflammation. The immune system reacts to the cold by generating fluid that can collect on the eardrum. So a person with an inflamed eardrum may also experience a gradual leaking of fluid from the ear. Because it’s a slow leak, it’s most noticeable when you sleep on your side.

This is known as conductive hearing loss and affects how well you hear in the short term. But long term hearing loss can also occur if this inflammation forces the eardrum to burst. In turn, more permanent damage happens to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is called sensorineural hearing loss.

It could be costly if you wait

Come in and see us if you’re dealing with any pain in your ears. 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. A patient may not even think to mention that they are feeling actual ear pain. But if you’re experiencing pain, the infection has advanced to a point where it is likely doing damage to the ear. It’s critical that the ear infection be treated quickly to avoid further harm.

In many cases, ear pain will remain even after the cold clears. This is often when an individual finally decides to go to a hearing specialist. But, a lot of damage is normally done by this time. Permanent hearing loss is often the consequence and that’s even more relevant with individuals who get ear infections regularly.

Each time you get an infection, eardrum lacerations and scar tissue can occur which, over time, can affect hearing clarity. 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 enter the inner ear, where it can harm the irreplaceable tiny nerve cells that you need to hear.

If you waited to have that ear infection treated, what should you do?

Don’t beat yourself up. Most individuals just think ear pain with a cold is normal when it really signals a much more significant cold infection. If you’re experiencing persistent hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to make an appointment with us sooner rather than later.

We will determine if you’re dealing with conductive, or temporary hearing loss. You might need to have an obstruction professionally extracted if this is the situation. If the hearing loss is irreversible (sensorineural), we can discuss options that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.

If you’re having trouble hearing after a cold, make an appointment asap.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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