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 both ears, though you rarely hear about those. This type of cold can be more harmful than a common cold and shouldn’t ever be disregarded.
What does it feel like when you get 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 ears and sinuses are linked. This blockage is usually alleviated when you use a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.
But you should never ignore pain in your ear, even during a cold. The eardrum can become infected if the cold moves into the ears. When it does, inflammation takes place. The immune system reacts to the cold by creating fluid that can collect on the eardrum. So a person 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 is known as conductive hearing loss and affects how well you hear in the short term. Sadly, it can also cause the eardrum to burst, which results in long-term hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is injury to the nerves of the ear, can then take place.
Waiting could be costly
Come in and see us if you’re dealing with any pain in your ears. It’s not uncommon for a primary care physician to wait until the cold is cleared up because they assume the ear pain will go away with it. Occasionally, a patient won’t even remember to mention any pain they may be experiencing in their ear. But the infection has likely gotten to the point where it’s causing damage to the ear if you’re experiencing pain. It’s critical that the ear infection be treated quickly to prevent further harm.
Many individuals who experience pain in their ear during a cold, get over their cold only to discover that the ear pain lingers. This is often when an individual finally decides to go to a hearing specialist. But at this point, a considerable amount of damage has already been done. This damage frequently leads to an irreversible hearing loss, particularly if you’re at risk of ear infections.
Over time, hearing acuity is affected by the small-scale scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. In an average, healthy person, the eardrum acts as a boundary between the middle ear and inner ear. Ear infections that were previously restricted to the middle ear can go into the inner ear if the eardrum is perforated even once. When the infection enters the inner ear, it can irreversibly harm the nerve cells needed to hear.
What should you do if you waited to deal with that ear infection?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Most individuals simply think ear pain with a cold is normal when it really points to a much more significant cold infection. You should make an appointment for a hearing exam as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We will determine if you’re coping with conductive, or temporary hearing loss. You may need to have an obstruction professionally extracted if this is the case. If the hearing loss is irreversible (sensorineural), we can talk about solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
Schedule an appointment as soon as possible if you’re having difficulty hearing after a cold.