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Man blowing his nose sick with a common cold

While everyone has dealt with a runny nose, we don’t often talk about other types of cold symptoms because they are less frequent. Occasionally, a cold can move 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 should never be ignored.

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 when you have a cold. This blockage is usually alleviated when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.

But you should never dismiss pain inside of your ear, even when you have a cold. The eardrum can become infected if the cold moves into the ears. When it does, swelling occurs. The immune system reacts to the cold by generating fluid that can collect on the eardrum. Frequently, a slow leaking fluid comes with this inflammation. This leak is most obvious when you sleep on your side because the leak is so slow.

This affects how well you hear in the short term, which is called conductive hearing loss. Sadly, it can also cause the eardrum to burst, which brings about long-term hearing loss. In turn, more permanent damage occurs to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is known as sensorineural hearing loss.

It could cost you if you wait

Come in and see us if you have any pain in your ears. It’s not unusual 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 may not even remember to mention that they’re feeling actual pain in the ear. But if you’re experiencing pain, the infection has progressed to a point where it is most likely doing damage to the ear. It’s paramount that the ear infection be addressed quickly to avoid more harm.

In many cases, ear pain will persist even after the cold goes away. Most individuals usually make the decision to consult a hearing specialist at this point. But at this point, a lot of damage has already been done. Permanent hearing loss is often the consequence and that’s even more relevant with people who get ear infections regularly.

Each time you have an infection, eardrum perforations and scar tissue can happen which, over time, can impact hearing clarity. 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 go into the inner ear if the eardrum is lacerated 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 be so hard on yourself. A cold with pain in the ear can actually be a more serious cold than most individuals may think. If you’re experiencing continued hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to make an appointment with us as soon as possible.

We can assess whether the hearing loss is temporary (conductive). If this is the situation, you might have a blockage in your ear that needs to be removed by a professional. If you have sensorineural, or irreversible hearing loss, there are treatment solutions, including new hearing technology, that we can help you with.

Make an appointment as soon as possible if you’re having trouble hearing after a cold.

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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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