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 kind 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?
Your sinuses are directly connected to your ears, so it’s common to feel some blockage in your ears when you have a cold. Usually, when you take a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be relieved.
But you shouldn’t ever disregard pain inside of your ear, even during a cold. The eardrum can be infected if the cold moves into the ears. When it does, inflammation occurs. The immune system reacts to the cold by producing fluid that can accumulate 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 obvious when you sleep on your side because the leak is so slow.
This is called conductive hearing loss and affects how well you hear over the short term. But long term hearing loss can also take place if this inflammation forces the eardrum to burst. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is damage to the nerves of the ear, can then occur.
It could be costly if you wait
If you’re noticing ear pain, get your ears examined by us. It’s not unusual for a primary care doctor to wait until the cold is cleared up because they assume the ear pain will clear up with it. A patient may not even remember to mention that they are experiencing actual pain in the ear. But if you’re feeling 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 avoid further harm.
Many individuals who experience ear pain during a cold, get over their cold only to notice that the ear pain lingers. This is usually when an individual finally decides to see 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, especially if you’re prone to ear infections.
Over time, hearing acuity is impacted by the tiny scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are the consequence of ear infections. The eardrum is a barrier between your inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and functioning in a normal capacity. Ear infections that were once confined to the middle ear can get into the inner ear if the eardrum is lacerated even once. When the infection goes into the inner ear, it can irreversibly damage the nerve cells needed to hear.
What should you do if you waited to treat that ear infection?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Most individuals simply think ear pain with a cold is normal when it actually signals a much more significant cold infection. If you are experiencing continued hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to make an appointment with us sooner rather than later.
We can assess whether the hearing loss is temporary (conductive). You may need to have a blockage professionally removed if this is the situation. If the hearing loss is irreversible (sensorineural), we can discuss options that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
If you’re struggling to hear after a cold, make an appointment asap.