There are other symptoms of a cold that are less prevalent than the widely recognized runny nose. Once in a while, a cold can go into one or more ears, though you rarely hear about those. This type of cold can be more harmful than a common cold and shouldn’t ever be neglected.
What does it feel like when you get a cold in your ear?
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 disregard pain inside of your ear, even during a cold. If the cold goes into the ear, the eardrum can become infected. When it does, swelling occurs. The immune system responds to the cold by creating fluid that can build up on the eardrum. Often, a slow leaking fluid accompanies this inflammation. Because it’s a gradual leak, it’s most pronounced when you are sleeping on your side.
This impacts how well you hear in the short term, which is known as conductive hearing loss. But long term hearing loss can also occur if this inflammation forces the eardrum to burst. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is injury to the nerves of the ear, can then happen.
It could cost you if you wait
Come in and see us if you’re experiencing any pain in your ears. It’s not uncommon for a primary care doctor to wait until the cold goes away because they assume the ear pain will clear up with it. Sometimes, a patient will even forget to mention any pain they may be feeling in their ear. But the infection has likely reached the point where it’s causing harm to the ear if you’re feeling pain. In order to prevent additional damage, the ear infection needs to be promptly treated.
In many circumstances, ear pain will linger even after the cold goes away. This is often when a person finally decides to see a hearing specialist. But by this time, a considerable amount of damage has already been done. Permanent hearing loss is frequently the outcome and that’s even more true with people who get ear infections regularly.
After a while, hearing clarity is affected by the tiny scars and perforations of the eardrum which are left behind from ear infections. The eardrum is a barrier between the inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and working in a normal capacity. Ear infections that were once confined to the middle ear can go into the inner ear if the eardrum is lacerated even once. When the infection goes into the inner ear, it can permanently harm the nerve cells needed to hear.
What should you do if you waited to address that ear infection?
Don’t beat yourself up. A cold with pain in the ear can actually be a more significant cold than most people 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 determine whether the hearing loss is temporary (conductive). If this is the case, you might have an obstruction in your ear that needs to be removed by a professional. If the hearing loss is permanent (sensorineural), we can discuss 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.