There are other symptoms of a cold that are less common than the well known runny nose. One type of cold you don’t frequently hear about is the one that moves into one or both ears. While you may generally think of colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom should never be dismissed.
What does it feel like when you have a cold in your ear?
It’s not abnormal to feel some blockage in your ears when you’re experiencing a common cold. After all, your sinuses and ears are connected. Usually, when you take a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be relieved.
But if you experience pain in the ears, this is something you should never disregard, even when you have a cold. If the cold moves into the ear, the eardrum can become infected. And that will trigger inflammation. Inflammation is an immune reaction that causes fluid to collect on the outside of the eardrum. Often, a slow leaking fluid comes with this inflammation. Because it’s a gradual leak, it’s most noticeable when you sleep on your side.
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 causes the eardrum to burst. As a result, more permanent damage takes place to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is known as sensorineural hearing loss.
It could be costly if you wait
If you’re noticing ear pain, get your ears tested 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 go away with it. Occasionally, a patient won’t even remember to mention any pain they may be experiencing in their ear. But if you’re experiencing pain, the infection has advanced to a point where it is likely doing damage to the ear. In order to avoid further damage, the ear infection needs to be quickly treated.
In many instances, ear pain will remain even after the cold goes away. This is often when a person finally decides to visit a hearing specialist. But, a great deal of damage is normally done by this time. Permanent hearing loss is frequently the outcome and that’s even more relevant with people who get ear infections regularly.
Over time, hearing acuity is affected by the small-scale scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are the consequence of ear infections. The eardrum is a buffer between your inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and working in a normal capacity. 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 harm the irreplaceable tiny nerve cells that you need to hear.
What should you do if you waited to deal with that ear infection?
Don’t beat yourself up. A cold with pain in the ear can actually be a more serious cold than most people might think. You should schedule an appointment for a hearing test as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We can determine whether the hearing loss is temporary (conductive). You might need to have an obstruction professionally removed if this is the situation. If the hearing loss is permanent (sensorineural), we can discuss solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
Make an appointment right away if you’re having difficulty hearing after a cold.