While everybody has experienced a runny nose, we don’t commonly mention other types of cold symptoms because they’re less frequent. One type of cold you don’t frequently hear about is the one that goes into one or more ears. This type of cold can be more risky than a common cold and shouldn’t ever be ignored.
What does it feel like when you get a cold in your ear?
Your sinuses are directly interconnected to your ears, so it’s normal to feel some blockage in your ears during a cold. This blockage is often alleviated when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But if you feel pain inside 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, inflammation happens. Inflammation is an immune response that causes fluid to accumulate on the outside of the eardrum. So a person who is coping with an inflamed eardrum might also experience a slow leaking of fluid from the ear. This leak is most obvious when you sleep on your side because the leak is so gradual.
This impacts how well you hear in the short term, which is called conductive hearing loss. But long term hearing loss can also occur if this inflammation forces the eardrum to burst. In turn, 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
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 clear up with it. Sometimes, a patient won’t even remember to mention any pain they may be feeling in their ear. But if you’re feeling pain, the infection has progressed to a point where it is most likely doing damage to the ear. In order to avoid further damage, the ear infection has to be promptly addressed.
Many people who experience ear pain during a cold, get over their cold only to notice that the ear pain remains. This is usually when a person finally decides to visit a hearing specialist. But at this point, a lot of damage has already been done. This damage often leads to permanent hearing loss, especially if you are at risk of ear infections.
Every time you get an infection, eardrum perforations and scar tissue can develop which, over time, can impact hearing clarity. In a normal, healthy individual, the eardrum acts as a boundary between the middle ear and inner ear. Ear infections that were previously confined to the middle ear can go into the inner ear if the eardrum is lacerated even once. When the infection enters the inner ear, it can permanently damage the nerve cells needed to hear.
What should you do if you waited to address that ear infection?
Don’t beat yourself up. A cold with pain in the ear can actually be a more severe cold than most individuals might think. You should schedule an appointment for a hearing assessment as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We will identify if you’re coping with conductive, or short-term hearing loss. If this is the case, 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 options, including new hearing technology, that we can help you with.
Make an appointment as soon as possible if you’re having difficulty hearing after a cold.