Hearing Health Blog

Man blowing his nose sick with a common cold

There are other symptoms of a cold that are less common than the widely recognized runny nose. Occasionally, a cold can go into one or more ears, but you rarely hear about those. This form of cold can be more risky than a common cold and should never be ignored.

What does it feel like when you get a cold in your ear?

Your sinuses are directly connected to your ears, so it’s normal to feel some blockage in your ears during a cold. This blockage is often relieved when you use a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.

But you shouldn’t ever disregard pain in your ear, even when you have a cold. The eardrum can be infected if the cold moves into the ears. And that will lead to inflammation. Inflammation is an immune response that causes fluid to collect on the outside of the eardrum. Often, a slow leaking fluid accompanies this inflammation. This leak is most apparent when you sleep on your side because the leak is so gradual.

This affects how well you hear in the short term, which is called conductive hearing loss. But long term hearing loss can also occur if this inflammation causes the eardrum to burst. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is injury to the nerves of the ear, can then happen.

Waiting could be costly

Come in and see us if you have any pain in your ears. In many cases, a primary doctor assumes that the ear symptoms will go away when the primary cold does. Occasionally, a patient will even forget to mention any pain they may be experiencing in their ear. But the infection has probably gotten to the point where it’s doing harm to the ear if you’re experiencing pain. It’s paramount that the ear infection be addressed immediately to prevent more harm.

In many cases, ear pain will remain even after the cold clears up. This is usually when an individual finally decides to visit a hearing specialist. But at this point, a lot of damage has already been done. Irreversible hearing loss is often the outcome and that’s even more relevant with individuals who get ear infections frequently.

After a while, hearing clarity is affected by the tiny scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are the consequence of 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 harm the irreplaceable tiny nerve cells that you need to hear.

If you waited to have that ear infection addressed, what should you do?

Don’t beat yourself up. A cold with pain in the ear can actually be a more severe cold than most people may think. If you are dealing with continued hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to make an appointment with us as soon as possible.

We can determine whether the hearing loss is temporary (conductive). You might need to have a blockage professionally removed if this is the situation. If the hearing loss is permanent (sensorineural), we can talk about solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.

Make an appointment right away 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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