While everybody has dealt with a runny nose, we don’t commonly mention other types of cold symptoms because they’re less frequent. Once in a while, a cold can move into one or both ears, though you rarely hear about those. While you might generally think of colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom shouldn’t ever be ignored.
What does it feel like when you get a cold in your ear?
It’s not unusual to feel some congestion in your ears when you’re experiencing a common cold. After all, your ears and sinuses are connected. This blockage is often alleviated when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But you shouldn’t ever ignore pain in your ear, even during a cold. If the cold moves into the ear, the eardrum can become infected. And that will trigger inflammation. Inflammation is an immune reaction that causes fluid to collect on the outside of the eardrum. Frequently, a slow leaking fluid accompanies this inflammation. Because it’s a slow leak, it’s most noticeable when you sleep on your side.
This impacts how well you hear in the short term, which is known as conductive hearing loss. Sadly, it can also cause the eardrum to burst, which leads to long-term hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is injury to the nerves of the ear, can then occur.
Waiting could be costly
If you’re noticing ear pain, get your ears checked by us. It’s not unusual 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 might not even think to mention that they are feeling actual ear pain. But if you’re experiencing pain, the infection has advanced to a point where it is likely doing damage to the ear. It’s critical that the ear infection be addressed immediately to avoid further damage.
In many instances, ear pain will remain even after the cold goes away. This is usually when a person finally decides to go to a hearing specialist. But, a lot of damage is normally done by this time. This damage frequently results in permanent hearing loss, especially if you are at risk of ear infections.
Over time, hearing clarity is impacted by the small-scale scars and perforations of the eardrum which are the consequence of ear infections. In a normal, healthy person, the eardrum acts as a boundary between the middle ear and inner ear. If the eardrum gets perforated even once, then the infection that was formerly confined to the middle ear can now enter 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 addressed, what should you do?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. A cold with pain in the ear can actually be a more significant cold than most people may think. You should make an appointment for a hearing test as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We will determine if you’re coping with conductive, or temporary hearing loss. If this is the situation, you might have a blockage in your ear that needs to be extracted by a professional. If you have sensorineural, or irreversible hearing loss, there are treatment solutions, 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.