There are other symptoms of a cold that are less common than the well known runny nose. One type 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’re experiencing a common cold. After all, your sinuses and ears are connected. Normally, when you use a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be alleviated.
But you should never ignore pain inside of your ear, even during a cold. If the cold goes into the ear, the eardrum can be infected. And that will cause inflammation. The immune system reacts to the cold by creating fluid that can build up on the eardrum. So somebody with an inflamed eardrum might also experience a gradual leaking of fluid from the ear. Because it’s a gradual leak, it’s most pronounced when you sleep on your side.
This is known as conductive hearing loss and affects how well you hear in the short term. Unfortunately, it can also cause the eardrum to burst, which results in long-term hearing loss. As a result, more permanent damage happens to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is known as sensorineural hearing loss.
Waiting could be costly
If you’re having pain in your ear, get your ears checked by us. It’s not uncommon 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 remember to mention that they are feeling actual ear pain. But the infection has most likely reached the point where it’s doing harm to the ear if you’re feeling pain. It’s critical that the ear infection be addressed quickly to prevent further harm.
In many instances, ear pain will persist even after the cold clears up. Most people usually decide to consult 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 relevant with people who experience ear infections frequently.
After a while, hearing acuity is impacted by the small-scale scars and perforations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. In a normal, healthy person, the eardrum serves as a boundary between the middle ear and inner ear. Ear infections that were previously restricted to the middle ear can get into the inner ear if the eardrum is lacerated even once. When the infection goes into the inner ear, it can irreversibly harm the nerve cells needed to hear.
If you waited to get that ear infection treated, what should you do?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. A cold with pain in the ear can actually be a more serious cold than most people may think. You should make an appointment for a hearing assessment as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We can determine whether the hearing loss is short-term (conductive). You might need to have a blockage professionally extracted if this is the case. If you have sensorineural, or irreversible hearing loss, there are treatment options, including new hearing technology, that we can help you with.
Make an appointment right away if you’re having difficulty hearing after a cold.