Man blowing his nose sick with a common cold

While everyone has experienced a runny nose, we don’t commonly mention other types of cold symptoms because they are less common. One kind of cold you don’t often hear about is the one that moves into one or more ears. This type of cold can be more risky than a common cold and should never be disregarded.

What does a cold in the ear feel like?

Your sinuses are directly interconnected to your ears, so it’s normal to feel some blockage in your ears when you have a cold. Normally, when you take a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be alleviated.

But if you feel pain inside the ears, this is something you shouldn’t ever disregard, even during a cold. The eardrum can be infected if the cold moves into the ears. And that will lead to inflammation. The immune system reacts to the cold by producing fluid that can collect on the eardrum. So someone who is coping with an inflamed eardrum might also experience a gradual leaking of fluid from the ear. Because it’s a gradual leak, it’s most pronounced when you are sleeping on your side.

This is known as conductive hearing loss and impacts how well you hear over the short term. But long term hearing loss can also occur if this inflammation forces the eardrum to burst. As a result, more permanent damage happens to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is known as sensorineural hearing loss.

Waiting could be costly

If you’re noticing pain in your ear, have 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. Occasionally, a patient will even forget to mention any pain they may be experiencing 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. It’s critical that the ear infection be treated quickly to prevent more damage.

In many instances, ear pain will remain even after the cold clears up. Most people typically make the decision to see a hearing specialist at this time. But at this point, a considerable amount of damage has already been done. Irreversible hearing loss is often the result and that’s even more relevant with people who get ear infections frequently.

Over time, hearing acuity is impacted by the small-scale scars and perforations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. In an average, healthy person, the eardrum acts as a buffer 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 go into the inner ear, where it can damage the irreplaceable tiny nerve cells that you need to hear.

What should you do if you waited to address that ear infection?

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Most people just think ear pain with a cold is normal when it really signals a much more serious cold infection. If you are dealing with persistent hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible.

We can determine whether the hearing loss is short-term (conductive). If this is the case, you may have an obstruction in your ear that needs to be extracted by a professional. If the hearing loss is irreversible (sensorineural), we can talk about options that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.

If you’re having trouble hearing after a cold, make an appointment asap.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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