There are other symptoms of a cold that are less common than the widely recognized runny nose. Occasionally, a cold can go into one or both ears, but you rarely hear about those. While you may generally think of colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom should never be disregarded.
What does a cold in the ear feel like?
It’s not abnormal to feel some blockage in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your ears and sinuses are connected. Normally, when you take a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be alleviated.
But if you feel pain in the ears, this is something you shouldn’t ever ignore, even during a cold. If the cold moves into the ear, the eardrum can become infected. When it does, swelling occurs. The immune system responds to the cold by producing fluid that can collect on the eardrum. So someone who is coping with an inflamed eardrum might also experience a slow leaking of fluid from the ear. Because it’s a slow leak, it’s most pronounced when you are sleeping on your side.
This is called conductive hearing loss and affects how well you hear in the short term. But long term hearing loss can also happen if this inflammation forces the eardrum to burst. As a result, more permanent damage takes place to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is called sensorineural hearing loss.
It could cost you if you wait
Come in and see us if you have any pain in your ears. 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. Occasionally, a patient won’t even remember to mention any pain they might be experiencing in their ear. But the infection has probably gotten to the point where it’s causing harm to the ear if you’re feeling pain. In order to prevent additional damage, the ear infection needs to be promptly treated.
In many circumstances, ear pain will remain even after the cold clears up. This is often when an individual finally decides to go to a hearing specialist. But, a great deal of damage is normally done by this time. This damage often leads to permanent hearing loss, especially if you’re at risk of ear infections.
Each time you have an infection, eardrum perforations and scar tissue can occur which, over time, can affect hearing clarity. The eardrum is a barrier between the 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 formerly restricted 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 have 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 severe cold than most people might think. If you’re dealing with continued hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible.
We can assess whether the hearing loss is short-term (conductive). You may need to have an obstruction professionally extracted if this is the situation. If you have sensorineural, or permanent hearing loss, there are treatment options, including new hearing technology, that we can help you with.
Make an appointment as soon as possible if you’re having trouble hearing after a cold.