Man blowing his nose sick with a common cold

There are other symptoms of a cold that are less prevalent than the well known runny nose. Occasionally, a cold can go into one or both ears, but you rarely hear about those. While you might generally think of colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom should never be disregarded.

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

It’s not uncommon to feel some blockage in your ears when you’re experiencing a common cold. After all, your ears and sinuses are linked. This blockage is often relieved when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.

But if you experience pain inside the ears, this is something you shouldn’t ever dismiss, even when you have a cold. If the cold moves into the ear, the eardrum can become infected. And that will result in inflammation. Inflammation is an immune response that causes fluid to build up on the outside of the eardrum. Frequently, a slow leaking fluid accompanies this inflammation. This leak is most obvious when you sleep on your side because the leak is so gradual.

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

It could cost you if you wait

If you’re having pain in your ear, get your ears checked by us. It’s not unusual for a primary care physician to wait until the cold is cleared up because they assume the ear pain will go away with it. Sometimes, a patient will even forget to mention any pain they might be feeling in their ear. But the infection has probably gotten to the point where it’s doing damage to the ear if you’re feeling pain. It’s critical that the ear infection be treated promptly to prevent further harm.

In many circumstances, ear pain will linger even after the cold clears up. This is usually when an individual finally decides to visit a hearing specialist. But at this point, a lot of damage has already been done. Irreversible hearing loss is often the result and that’s even more true with people who get ear infections regularly.

Each time you have an infection, eardrum perforations and scar tissue can develop which, over time, can affect hearing clarity. The eardrum is a buffer between the inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and functioning in a normal capacity. If the eardrum gets 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.

What should you do if you waited to address that ear infection?

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Most individuals just think ear pain with a cold is normal when it really signals a much more serious cold infection. You should schedule an appointment for a hearing assessment as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.

We will determine if you’re dealing with conductive, or short-term hearing loss. If this is the case, you may have an obstruction in your ear that needs to be removed by a professional. If you have sensorineural, or permanent hearing loss, there are treatment solutions, including new hearing technology, that we can help you with.

If you’re struggling to hear after a cold, schedule 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.

Medical information dates as new research comes out all the time - if you have a concern about your hearing, please call us.

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