Louisville Family Audiology - Louisville, KY

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. One type of cold you don’t often hear about is the one that moves into one or both ears. This kind of cold can be more risky than a common cold and shouldn’t ever be dismissed.

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

Your sinuses are directly interconnected to your ears, so it’s normal to feel some congestion in your ears when you have a cold. Normally, 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 ignore, even during a cold. If the cold goes into the ear, the eardrum can become infected. And that will trigger inflammation. The immune system reacts to the cold by generating fluid that can build up on the eardrum. So someone who is coping with an inflamed eardrum may also experience a slow leaking of fluid from the ear. This leak is most apparent when you sleep on your side because the leak is so gradual.

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

It could cost you if you wait

If you’re experiencing pain in your ear, get your ears checked by us. It’s not uncommon for a primary care physician to wait until the cold goes away because they assume the ear pain will go away with it. A patient might not even remember to mention that they are experiencing actual pain in the ear. But if you’re experiencing pain, the infection has advanced to a point where it is most likely doing damage to the ear. It’s critical that the ear infection be addressed immediately to prevent more damage.

In many cases, ear pain will remain even after the cold clears up. Most individuals typically make the decision to see a hearing specialist at this point. But, a lot of damage is usually done by this time. Permanent hearing loss is frequently the result and that’s even more relevant with individuals who get ear infections regularly.

Every time you have an infection, eardrum lacerations and scar tissue can occur which, over time, can impact hearing acuity. The eardrum is a barrier between the inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and functioning in a normal capacity. If the eardrum becomes perforated even once, then the infection that was previously 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.

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

Don’t beat yourself up. Most individuals just think ear pain with a cold is normal when it actually points to a much more significant cold infection. You should make an appointment for a hearing assessment as soon as you can if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.

We can determine whether the hearing loss is temporary (conductive). You may need to have an obstruction professionally removed if this is the case. If the hearing loss is permanent (sensorineural), we can discuss solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.

If you’re having trouble hearing after a cold, make an appointment asap.

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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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