There are other symptoms of a cold that are less prevalent than the widely recognized runny nose. Occasionally, a cold can move into one or more ears, though you rarely hear about those. This form of cold can be more harmful than a common cold and should never be dismissed.
What does it feel like when you have a cold in your ear?
It’s not abnormal to feel some congestion in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your sinuses and ears are connected. This blockage is often relieved when you use a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But if you experience pain in the ears, this is something you should never dismiss, even during a cold. If the cold goes into the ear, the eardrum can be infected. And that will result in inflammation. The immune system responds to the cold by generating fluid that can build up on the eardrum. Often, a slow leaking fluid accompanies this inflammation. Because it’s a slow leak, it’s most pronounced when you are sleeping on your side.
This affects 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 occurs to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is called sensorineural hearing loss.
It could be costly if you wait
Come in and see us if you have any pain in your ears. 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. Sometimes, a patient will even forget to mention any pain they may be feeling in their ear. But the infection has probably gotten to the point where it’s doing damage to the ear if you’re experiencing pain. It’s paramount that the ear infection be addressed promptly to prevent further harm.
In many circumstances, ear pain will linger even after the cold goes away. Most people usually decide to see a hearing specialist at this time. But by this time, a lot of damage has already been done. Irreversible hearing loss is often the result and that’s even more true with individuals who get ear infections regularly.
After a while, hearing clarity is impacted by the tiny scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. The eardrum is a barrier between the inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and working in a normal capacity. If the eardrum becomes 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 address that ear infection?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. A cold with pain in the ear can actually be a more severe cold than most people might think. You should make 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 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.
Schedule an appointment right away if you’re having difficulty hearing after a cold.