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 consider colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom should never be disregarded.
What does a cold in your ear feel like?
Your sinuses are directly connected to your ears, so it’s normal to feel some congestion in your ears during a cold. This blockage is often relieved when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But if you feel pain inside the ears, this is something you should never ignore, 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 responds to the cold by generating fluid that can accumulate on the eardrum. So someone with an inflamed eardrum might also experience a gradual leaking of fluid from the ear. Because it’s a gradual leak, it’s most noticeable when you are sleeping on your side.
This affects how well you hear in the short term, which is known as conductive hearing loss. But long term hearing loss can also occur if this inflammation forces the eardrum to burst. As a result, more permanent damage occurs to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is known as sensorineural hearing loss.
It could be costly if you wait
If you’re noticing ear pain, have your ears examined by us. It’s not uncommon for a primary care doctor 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 the infection has likely gotten to the point where it’s causing damage to the ear if you’re feeling pain. It’s critical that the ear infection be addressed promptly to avoid more harm.
In many circumstances, ear pain will remain even after the cold clears. Most individuals typically make the decision to see a hearing specialist at this time. But by this time, a lot of damage has already been done. Permanent hearing loss is frequently the consequence and that’s even more relevant with individuals who experience ear infections regularly.
Each time you get an infection, eardrum lacerations and scar tissue can develop which, over time, can impact hearing clarity. The eardrum is a barrier between your inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and working in a normal capacity. If the eardrum becomes perforated even once, then the infection that was previously restricted to the middle ear can now enter 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 be so hard on yourself. Most individuals simply assume ear pain with a cold is normal when it really signals a much more significant cold infection. You should schedule an appointment for a hearing assessment as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We can assess whether the hearing loss is short-term (conductive). You might need to have an obstruction professionally extracted if this is the case. If the hearing loss is irreversible (sensorineural), we can talk about 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.