There are other symptoms of a cold that are less prevalent than the widely recognized runny nose. Occasionally, a cold can go into one or both ears, though you rarely hear about those. This form of cold can be more harmful than a common cold and shouldn’t ever be neglected.
What does a cold in the ear feel like?
It’s not unusual to feel some blockage in your ears when you’re experiencing a common cold. After all, your sinuses and ears are connected. This blockage is usually alleviated when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But you should never ignore pain in your ear, even when you have a cold. The eardrum can become infected if the cold moves into the ears. When it does, inflammation happens. The immune system reacts to the cold by creating fluid that can collect on the eardrum. Frequently, a slow leaking fluid comes with this inflammation. This leak is most apparent when you sleep on your side because the leak is so slow.
This affects 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 causes the eardrum to burst. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is injury to the nerves of the ear, can then occur.
Waiting could cost you
Come in and see us if you have any pain in your ears. It’s not uncommon for a primary care physician to wait until the cold goes away because they assume the ear pain will clear up with it. A patient might not even think to mention that they’re experiencing actual ear pain. But the infection has probably reached the point where it’s causing harm to the ear if you’re feeling pain. In order to avoid further damage, the ear infection has to be promptly treated.
In many instances, ear pain will persist even after the cold clears. Most individuals typically decide to consult a hearing specialist at this time. But at this point, a considerable amount of damage has already been done. This damage often causes an irreversible hearing loss, especially if you’re prone to ear infections.
Over time, hearing acuity is affected by the tiny scars and perforations of the eardrum which are the consequence of ear infections. The eardrum is a barrier between the inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and functioning in a normal capacity. 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 goes into the inner ear, it can irreversibly damage the nerve cells needed to hear.
If you waited to get that ear infection addressed, what should you do?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Most individuals just assume ear pain with a cold is normal when it really signals a much more serious cold infection. You should schedule an appointment for a hearing exam as soon as you can if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We can determine whether the hearing loss is temporary (conductive). If this is the case, you may have a blockage in your ear that needs to be removed by a professional. If the hearing loss is permanent (sensorineural), we can discuss solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
If you’re struggling to hear after a cold, schedule an appointment asap.