There are other symptoms of a cold that are less prevalent than the widely recognized runny nose. One kind of cold you don’t often hear about is the one that goes into one or both ears. While you may generally think of colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom shouldn’t ever be dismissed.
What does it feel like when you get a cold in your ear?
It’s not abnormal to feel some blockage in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your ears and sinuses are linked. 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 disregard, even when you have a cold. If the cold moves into the ear, the eardrum can become infected. When it does, swelling happens. Inflammation is an immune reaction that causes fluid to collect on the exterior of the eardrum. Often, a slow leaking fluid accompanies this inflammation. This leak is most apparent when you sleep on your side because the leak is so slow.
This is known as conductive hearing loss and affects how well you hear in the short term. Sadly, it can also cause the eardrum to burst, which leads to long-term hearing loss. In turn, more permanent damage happens to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is called sensorineural hearing loss.
It could cost you if you wait
If you’re noticing pain in your ear, have your ears tested by us. Oftentimes, a primary doctor assumes that the ear symptoms will disappear when the initial cold clears up. Sometimes, a patient won’t even remember to mention any pain they might be feeling in their ear. But the infection has likely reached the point where it’s causing harm to the ear if you’re feeling pain. In order to prevent additional damage, the ear infection needs to be promptly treated.
Many individuals who develop ear pain during a cold, get over their cold only to notice that the ear pain lingers. This is usually when a person finally decides to see a hearing specialist. But by this time, a lot of damage has already been done. This damage often leads to permanent hearing loss, especially if you are prone to ear infections.
Each time you have an infection, eardrum perforations and scar tissue can happen which, over time, can affect hearing clarity. In a normal, healthy person, the eardrum acts as a buffer between the middle ear and inner ear. If the eardrum gets perforated even once, then the infection that was previously confined to the middle ear can now enter 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 addressed, what should you do?
Don’t beat yourself up. Most individuals just assume ear pain with a cold is normal when it really points to a much more serious cold infection. If you’re dealing with continued hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to make an appointment with us sooner rather than later.
We can determine whether the hearing loss is temporary (conductive). If this is the situation, you may have an obstruction in your ear that needs to be extracted by a professional. If you have sensorineural, or permanent hearing loss, there are treatment options, including new hearing technology, that we can help you with.
If you’re having trouble hearing after a cold, make an appointment asap.