While everyone has dealt with a runny nose, we don’t usually mention other kinds of cold symptoms because they are less frequent. Once in a while, a cold can go into one or more ears, though you rarely hear about those. While you might generally consider colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom shouldn’t ever be ignored.
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’re experiencing a common cold. After all, your ears and sinuses are linked. This blockage is usually alleviated when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But if you experience pain inside the ears, this is something you shouldn’t ever ignore, even when you have a cold. If the cold goes into the ear, the eardrum can be infected. When it does, swelling happens. Inflammation is an immune reaction that causes fluid to collect on the outside of the eardrum. So an individual with an inflamed eardrum might also experience a slow leaking of fluid from the ear. This leak is most apparent when you sleep on your side because the leak is so gradual.
This is called conductive hearing loss and affects how well you hear over the short term. But long term hearing loss can also happen if this inflammation forces the eardrum to burst. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is injury to the nerves of the ear, can then happen.
Waiting could be costly
Come in and see us if you’re dealing with any pain in your ears. It’s not unusual for a primary care doctor to wait until the cold goes away because they assume the ear pain will clear up with it. Sometimes, a patient will even forget to mention any pain they may be experiencing in their ear. But if you’re feeling 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 more damage.
In many instances, ear pain will linger even after the cold clears. Most people typically make the decision to see a hearing specialist at this point. But, a great deal of damage is usually done by this time. Irreversible hearing loss is often the outcome and that’s even more true with people who get ear infections frequently.
Each time you get an infection, eardrum lacerations and scar tissue can happen which, over time, can impact hearing clarity. In a normal, healthy person, the eardrum serves as a boundary between the middle ear and inner ear. If the eardrum becomes perforated even once, then the infection that was previously 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 beat yourself up. Most people simply think ear pain with a cold is normal when it really points to a much more significant cold infection. You should make an appointment for a hearing exam as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We will identify if you’re coping with conductive, or short-term hearing loss. If this is the situation, you might have a blockage in your ear that needs to be extracted by a professional. If the hearing loss is permanent (sensorineural), we can discuss solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
Make an appointment as soon as possible if you’re having difficulty hearing after a cold.