There are other symptoms of a cold that are less prevalent than the well known runny nose. Once in a while, a cold can go into one or more ears, though you rarely hear about those. While you may generally consider colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom should never be ignored.
What does it feel like when you have a cold in your ear?
It’s not abnormal to feel some congestion in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your sinuses and ears are linked. This blockage is usually alleviated 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. The eardrum can be infected if the cold goes into the ears. And that will result in inflammation. The immune system reacts to the cold by creating fluid that can accumulate on the eardrum. So someone who is coping with an inflamed eardrum may also experience a gradual leaking of fluid from the ear. Because it’s a slow leak, it’s most pronounced when you are sleeping on your side.
This affects how well you hear in the short term, which is called conductive hearing loss. But long term hearing loss can also happen 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.
Waiting could be costly
If you’re having ear pain, get your ears tested by us. It’s not uncommon for a primary care physician to wait until the cold goes away because they assume the ear pain will clear up with it. Sometimes, a patient won’t even remember to mention any pain they may be experiencing in their ear. But if you’re experiencing pain, the infection has progressed to a point where it is most likely doing damage to the ear. In order to avoid further damage, the ear infection needs to be promptly treated.
In many instances, ear pain will remain even after the cold goes away. Most people typically decide to consult a hearing specialist at this point. But at this point, a lot of damage has already been done. Irreversible hearing loss is frequently the outcome and that’s even more relevant with people who experience ear infections regularly.
Over time, hearing clarity is impacted by the tiny scars and perforations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. In an average, healthy individual, the eardrum serves as a buffer 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 go into the inner ear, where it can damage the irreplaceable tiny nerve cells that you need to hear.
What should you do if you waited to address that ear infection?
Don’t beat yourself up. Most people simply assume ear pain with a cold is normal when it actually points to a much more serious cold infection. If you’re dealing with persistent hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to schedule an appointment with us sooner rather than later.
We can determine whether the hearing loss is short-term (conductive). If this is the case, you might have an obstruction in your ear that needs to be extracted by a professional. If you’re dealing with sensorineural, or irreversible hearing loss, there are treatment solutions, including new hearing technology, that we can help you with.
Schedule an appointment as soon as possible if you’re having trouble hearing after a cold.