While everyone has dealt with a runny nose, we don’t usually talk about other kinds of cold symptoms because they’re less frequent. Occasionally, a cold can go into one or both ears, though you rarely hear about those. This type of cold can be more harmful than a common cold and should never be dismissed.
What does a cold in your ear feel like?
It’s not unusual to feel some congestion in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your ears and sinuses are connected. Normally, when you use a decongestant for sinus relief, this blockage will also be alleviated.
But you should never dismiss pain inside of your ear, even during a cold. The eardrum can be infected if the cold moves into the ears. When it does, swelling takes place. The immune system responds to the cold by creating fluid that can build up on the eardrum. So a person who is coping with an inflamed eardrum might also experience a gradual leaking of fluid from the ear. This leak is most apparent when you sleep on your side because the leak is so gradual.
This impacts how well you hear in the short term, which is called conductive hearing loss. Regrettably, it can also cause the eardrum to burst, which leads to long-term hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is injury to the nerves of the ear, can then take place.
Waiting could be costly
If you’re experiencing pain in your ear, get your ears examined by us. It’s not uncommon for a primary care physician to wait until the cold is cleared up because they assume the ear pain will clear up with it. Occasionally, a patient will even forget to mention any pain they may be experiencing in their ear. But the infection has most likely reached the point where it’s causing harm to the ear if you’re feeling pain. It’s critical that the ear infection be treated quickly to prevent further damage.
Many individuals who develop pain in their ear during a cold, get over their cold only to discover that the ear pain lingers. This is often when an individual finally decides to visit a hearing specialist. But, a lot of damage is usually done by this time. Permanent hearing loss is often the result and that’s even more relevant with individuals who experience ear infections regularly.
Every time you have an infection, eardrum lacerations and scar tissue can happen which, over time, can impact 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 formerly confined to the middle ear can now go into 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 deal with that ear infection?
Don’t beat yourself up. A cold with pain in the ear can actually be a more severe cold than most people may think. You should schedule an appointment for a hearing exam as soon as possible if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.
We can assess whether the hearing loss is short-term (conductive). If this is the situation, you might have an obstruction in your ear that needs to be extracted by a professional. If the hearing loss is irreversible (sensorineural), we can talk about options that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.
Schedule an appointment right away if you’re having difficulty hearing after a cold.