While everybody has dealt with a runny nose, we don’t commonly mention other types of cold symptoms because they are less common. Once in a while, a cold can move into one or both ears, but you rarely hear about those. This kind of cold can be more harmful than a common cold and should never be dismissed.
What does a cold in your ear feel like?
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 usually relieved when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But you shouldn’t ever disregard pain inside of your ear, even when you have a cold. If the cold goes into the ear, the eardrum can become infected. And that will cause inflammation. Inflammation is an immune reaction that causes fluid to accumulate on the exterior of the eardrum. Often, a slow leaking fluid comes with this inflammation. This leak is most obvious when you sleep on your side because the leak is so gradual.
This affects how well you hear in the short term, which is called conductive hearing loss. But long term hearing loss can also take place if this inflammation forces the eardrum to burst. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is damage to the nerves of the ear, can then take place.
It could cost you if you wait
If you’re experiencing ear pain, get your ears checked by us. It’s not unusual for a primary care doctor to wait until the cold is cleared up because they assume the ear pain will clear up with it. A patient might not even remember to mention that they are feeling actual pain in the ear. But if you’re experiencing pain, the infection has progressed to a point where it is likely doing damage to the ear. It’s paramount that the ear infection be addressed quickly to avoid further harm.
In many circumstances, ear pain will linger even after the cold goes away. This is usually when a person finally decides to go to a hearing specialist. But at this point, a lot of damage has already been done. Irreversible hearing loss is often the result and that’s even more relevant with individuals who get ear infections frequently.
Over time, hearing acuity is impacted by the tiny scars and perforations of the eardrum which are the consequence of ear infections. In an average, healthy person, the eardrum serves as a buffer between the middle ear and inner ear. Ear infections that were once restricted to the middle ear can get 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.
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 significant cold than most individuals might think. You should schedule an appointment for a hearing exam as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We can assess whether the hearing loss is short-term (conductive). You might need to have a blockage professionally extracted if this is the situation. If the hearing loss is permanent (sensorineural), we can talk about solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
Make an appointment as soon as possible if you’re having difficulty hearing after a cold.