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 moves into one or more ears. This form of cold can be more risky than a common cold and shouldn’t ever be dismissed.
What does it feel like when you have a cold in your ear?
Your sinuses are directly linked to your ears, so it’s common to feel some blockage in your ears when you have a cold. This blockage is usually relieved when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But if you experience pain in the ears, this is something you shouldn’t ever dismiss, even during a cold. If the cold moves 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. Often, a slow leaking fluid comes with this inflammation. Because it’s a slow leak, it’s most pronounced when you are sleeping on your side.
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 forces the eardrum to burst. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is injury to the nerves of the ear, can then occur.
Waiting could cost you
If you’re noticing ear pain, get your ears examined by us. It’s not unusual for a primary care physician to wait until the cold is cleared up because they assume the ear pain will go away with it. Occasionally, a patient won’t even remember to mention any pain they may be feeling in their ear. But the infection has most likely reached the point where it’s causing damage to the ear if you’re feeling pain. In order to avoid further damage, the ear infection has to be quickly treated.
In many circumstances, ear pain will linger even after the cold goes away. This is often when a person finally decides to see a hearing specialist. But, a great deal of damage is normally done by this time. This damage frequently causes an irreversible hearing loss, particularly if you are prone to ear infections.
After a while, hearing clarity is affected by the tiny scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. In a normal, healthy individual, the eardrum serves as a buffer between the middle ear and inner ear. If the eardrum becomes perforated even once, then the infection that was formerly restricted to the middle ear can now enter the inner ear, where it can harm 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 individuals simply think ear pain with a cold is normal when it really signals a much more serious cold infection. If you are experiencing continued hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to make an appointment with us as soon as possible.
We can determine whether the hearing loss is short-term (conductive). You may need to have a blockage professionally removed if this is the situation. If the hearing loss is irreversible (sensorineural), we can talk about solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
If you’re struggling to hear after a cold, make an appointment asap.