There are other symptoms of a cold that are less common than the widely recognized runny nose. Occasionally, a cold can move into one or more ears, but you rarely hear about those. This form of cold can be more risky than a common cold and shouldn’t ever be neglected.
What does it feel like when you have a cold in your ear?
It’s not unusual to feel some congestion in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your ears and sinuses are linked. Usually, when you use a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be relieved.
But you shouldn’t ever ignore pain inside of your ear, even when you have a cold. If the cold moves into the ear, the eardrum can be infected. And that will lead to inflammation. Inflammation is an immune reaction that causes fluid to build up on the outside of the eardrum. So a person with an inflamed eardrum might also experience a slow leaking of fluid from the ear. Because it’s a slow leak, it’s most noticeable when you are sleeping on your side.
This affects how well you hear in the short term, which is known as conductive hearing loss. Unfortunately, it can also cause the eardrum to burst, which leads to long-term hearing loss. In turn, more permanent damage happens to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is known as sensorineural hearing loss.
Waiting could be costly
If you’re noticing ear pain, get your ears examined by us. It’s not uncommon for a primary care physician to wait until the cold goes away because they assume the ear pain will clear up with it. Occasionally, 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 doing harm to the ear if you’re experiencing pain. It’s paramount that the ear infection be treated promptly to prevent more harm.
In many cases, ear pain will remain even after the cold goes away. Most individuals typically make the decision to see a hearing specialist at this time. But by this time, a lot of damage has already been done. This damage often leads to an irreversible hearing loss, especially if you are at risk of ear infections.
Each time you get an infection, eardrum perforations and scar tissue can happen which, over time, can affect hearing clarity. In an average, healthy person, the eardrum acts as a buffer 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 lacerated even once. When the infection goes into the inner ear, it can permanently damage 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 people might think. If you’re experiencing persistent hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to make an appointment with us as soon as possible.
We can assess whether the hearing loss is temporary (conductive). You may need to have a blockage professionally extracted if this is the situation. If the hearing loss is irreversible (sensorineural), we can discuss solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
If you’re struggling to hear after a cold, schedule an appointment asap.