While everybody has encountered a runny nose, we don’t usually mention other kinds of cold symptoms because they’re less frequent. Occasionally, a cold can move into one or more ears, but you rarely hear about those. While you may generally consider colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom should never be dismissed.
What does a cold in the ear feel like?
It’s not uncommon to feel some congestion in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your ears and sinuses are connected. This blockage is usually relieved when you use a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But you should never dismiss pain inside of your ear, even during a cold. If the cold moves into the ear, the eardrum can be infected. And that will result in inflammation. Inflammation is an immune response that causes fluid to collect on the outside of the eardrum. So somebody with an inflamed eardrum may also experience a gradual leaking of fluid from the ear. This leak is most obvious when you sleep on your side because the leak is so gradual.
This is called conductive hearing loss and impacts how well you hear over the short term. But long term hearing loss can also occur if this inflammation causes the eardrum to burst. As a result, more permanent damage takes place to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is known as sensorineural hearing loss.
It could cost you if you wait
Come in and see us if you’re experiencing any pain in your ears. 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 might not even think to mention that they’re feeling actual pain in the ear. But if you’re experiencing pain, the infection has progressed to a point where it is likely doing damage to the ear. In order to avoid further damage, the ear infection needs to be promptly treated.
In many cases, ear pain will remain even after the cold goes away. This is often when an individual finally decides to visit a hearing specialist. But, a great deal of damage is usually done by this time. This damage frequently results in permanent hearing loss, particularly if you’re at risk of ear infections.
After a while, hearing acuity is affected by the small-scale scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are the consequence of ear infections. The eardrum is a barrier between your inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and functioning in a normal capacity. If the eardrum becomes 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.
If you waited to get that ear infection treated, what should you do?
Don’t beat yourself up. A cold with pain in the ear can actually be a more serious cold than most individuals might think. If you’re experiencing continued hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to schedule an appointment with us sooner rather than later.
We can assess whether the hearing loss is short-term (conductive). You may need to have an obstruction professionally removed if this is the case. If you’re dealing with sensorineural, or permanent 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.