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 frequently hear about is the one that goes into one or more ears. While you might generally think of colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom should never be disregarded.

What does a cold in the ear feel like?

It’s not unusual to feel some blockage in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your ears and sinuses are linked. Normally, when you use a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be relieved.

But you should never disregard pain inside of your ear, even during a cold. The eardrum can become infected if the cold moves into the ears. When it does, swelling takes place. The immune system reacts to the cold by generating fluid that can build up on the eardrum. Often, a slow leaking fluid accompanies this inflammation. Because it’s a slow leak, it’s most noticeable when you sleep on your side.

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

Waiting could cost you

Come in and see us if you’re experiencing 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. A patient might not even think to mention that they are experiencing actual pain in the ear. But the infection has most likely reached the point where it’s causing damage to the ear if you’re feeling pain. It’s critical that the ear infection be treated immediately to avoid more damage.

In many instances, ear pain will linger even after the cold clears up. Most people usually decide to consult a hearing specialist at this point. But at this point, a considerable amount of damage has already been done. This damage often causes permanent hearing loss, particularly if you are prone to ear infections.

Over time, hearing acuity is affected by the tiny scars and perforations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. In an average, healthy person, the eardrum serves as a barrier between the middle ear and inner ear. Ear infections that were previously restricted to the middle ear can get 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.

If you waited to have 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 might think. You should schedule an appointment for a hearing assessment as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.

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

If you’re struggling to hear 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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