There are other symptoms of a cold that are less common than the widely recognized runny nose. Once in a while, a cold can move into one or more ears, though you rarely hear about those. While you might generally think of colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom should never be dismissed.
What does a cold in your ear feel like?
Your sinuses are directly connected to your ears, so it’s normal to feel some congestion in your ears during a cold. Usually, when you take a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be alleviated.
But if you experience pain inside the ears, this is something you shouldn’t ever ignore, even when you have a cold. The eardrum can be infected if the cold goes into the ears. And that will cause inflammation. Inflammation is an immune response that causes fluid to collect on the outside 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 impacts how well you hear in the short term, which is known as conductive hearing loss. Regrettably, it can also cause the eardrum to burst, which results in long-term hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is damage to the nerves of the ear, can then occur.
It could cost you if you wait
If you’re having pain in your ear, have your ears examined by us. It’s not uncommon 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 think to mention that they’re experiencing actual pain in the ear. But the infection has probably reached the point where it’s doing harm to the ear if you’re feeling pain. In order to avoid additional damage, the ear infection has to be quickly treated.
In many instances, ear pain will persist even after the cold clears up. Most individuals typically decide to consult a hearing specialist at this time. But, a lot of damage is usually done by this time. This damage often results in permanent hearing loss, particularly if you’re prone to ear infections.
Every time you get an infection, eardrum lacerations and scar tissue can develop which, over time, can affect hearing clarity. In a normal, healthy person, the eardrum acts as a buffer between the middle ear and inner ear. 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.
If you waited to get 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 serious cold than most individuals might think. If you are experiencing continued 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 temporary (conductive). If this is the situation, you may have an obstruction in your ear that needs to be extracted by a professional. If you’re dealing with sensorineural, or irreversible hearing loss, there are treatment options, including new hearing technology, that we can help you with.
If you’re struggling to hear after a cold, schedule an appointment asap.