There are other symptoms of a cold that are less prevalent than the well known runny nose. Once in a while, a cold can move into one or both ears, though you rarely hear about those. While you may generally consider colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom should never be ignored.
What does a cold in the ear feel like?
It’s not uncommon to feel some blockage in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your sinuses and ears are connected. This blockage is usually alleviated when you use a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But you shouldn’t ever ignore pain inside of your ear, even when you have a cold. The eardrum can become infected if the cold moves into the ears. And that will result in inflammation. Inflammation is an immune reaction that causes fluid to build up on the outside of the eardrum. So someone who is coping with an inflamed eardrum might also experience a gradual leaking of fluid from the ear. This leak is most apparent when you sleep on your side because the leak is so gradual.
This impacts how well you hear over the short term, which is called conductive hearing loss. Regrettably, it can also cause the eardrum to burst, which leads to long-term hearing loss. As a result, 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
If you’re experiencing ear pain, get your ears tested by us. In many cases, a primary doctor assumes that the ear symptoms will go away when the initial cold clears up. Occasionally, a patient won’t even remember to mention any pain they might be experiencing in their ear. But the infection has likely gotten to the point where it’s doing harm to the ear if you’re feeling pain. In order to prevent additional damage, the ear infection needs to be quickly treated.
In many cases, ear pain will remain even after the cold clears up. Most individuals usually decide to see a hearing specialist at this time. But at this point, a lot of damage has already been done. Irreversible hearing loss is often the result and that’s even more true with individuals who experience ear infections frequently.
Over time, hearing acuity is impacted by the small-scale scars and perforations of the eardrum which are the consequence of ear infections. In a normal, healthy individual, the eardrum serves as a boundary 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 enter 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 severe cold than most individuals 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). If this is the situation, you may have an obstruction in your ear that needs to be removed by a professional. If the hearing loss is irreversible (sensorineural), we can discuss solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
If you’re struggling to hear after a cold, schedule an appointment asap.