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. While you may generally think of colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom shouldn’t ever be dismissed.
What does a cold in the ear feel like?
It’s not unusual to feel some congestion in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your sinuses and ears are linked. This blockage is usually alleviated when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But you should never disregard pain in your ear, even during a cold. If the cold goes into the ear, the eardrum can be infected. And that will result in 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. This leak is most apparent when you sleep on your side because the leak is so gradual.
This impacts how well you hear over the short term, which is called conductive hearing loss. But long term hearing loss can also happen if this inflammation forces the eardrum to burst. In turn, more permanent damage happens to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is called sensorineural hearing loss.
Waiting could cost you
Come in and see us if you’re dealing with any pain in your ears. It’s not uncommon 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 will even forget to mention any pain they may be experiencing in their ear. But the infection has likely reached the point where it’s causing damage to the ear if you’re experiencing pain. It’s paramount that the ear infection be addressed quickly to avoid further damage.
In many cases, ear pain will persist even after the cold clears. This is usually when a person finally decides to see a hearing specialist. But, a lot of damage is usually done by this time. This damage frequently causes an irreversible hearing loss, particularly if you are prone to ear infections.
After a while, hearing clarity is affected by the small-scale scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. The eardrum is a barrier between your inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and working in a normal capacity. Ear infections that were previously confined to the middle ear can get into the inner ear if the eardrum is perforated even once. When the infection goes into the inner ear, it can permanently harm the nerve cells needed to hear.
What should you do if you waited to treat 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. If you are dealing with persistent hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to make an appointment with us sooner rather than later.
We can determine whether the hearing loss is short-term (conductive). If this is the case, you might have an obstruction in your ear that needs to be removed by a professional. If the hearing loss is irreversible (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.