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Man blowing his nose sick with a common cold

There are other symptoms of a cold that are less common than the widely recognized runny nose. Once in a while, a cold can move into one or both ears, though you rarely hear about those. This type 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 uncommon to feel some blockage in your ears when you’re experiencing a common cold. After all, your sinuses and ears are linked. This blockage is often relieved when you take a decongestant to relieve sinus symptoms.

But if you feel pain inside the ears, this is something you shouldn’t ever ignore, even during a cold. If the cold moves into the ear, the eardrum can be infected. And that will trigger inflammation. The immune system responds to the cold by generating fluid that can build up on the eardrum. So somebody with an inflamed eardrum might also experience a gradual leaking of fluid from the ear. Because it’s a gradual leak, it’s most noticeable when you are sleeping on your side.

This is known as conductive hearing loss and impacts 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.

Waiting could be costly

Come in and see us if you have any pain in your ears. 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. Sometimes, a patient will even forget to mention any pain they may be feeling in their ear. But if you’re experiencing pain, the infection has progressed to a point where it is most likely doing damage to the ear. It’s critical that the ear infection be addressed promptly to prevent further damage.

Many people who experience ear pain during a cold, get over their cold only to find that the ear pain remains. Most individuals usually make the decision to consult a hearing specialist at this time. But at this point, a considerable amount of damage has already been done. Irreversible hearing loss is often the outcome and that’s even more true with individuals who experience ear infections frequently.

Each time you have an infection, eardrum perforations and scar tissue can happen which, over time, can impact hearing clarity. The eardrum is a barrier between the inner and middle ear when it’s healthy and working in a normal capacity. If the eardrum becomes perforated even once, then the infection that was formerly 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.

If you waited to get that ear infection addressed, what should you do?

Don’t beat yourself up. Most people simply think ear pain with a cold is normal when it really points to a much more serious cold infection. If you are experiencing continued hearing loss after a cold, it’s best to schedule an appointment with us sooner rather than later.

We will determine if you’re coping with conductive, or temporary hearing loss. You may need to have an obstruction professionally removed if this is the situation. If the hearing loss is permanent (sensorineural), we can discuss solutions that will help you hear better, including new hearing technology.

Schedule an appointment as soon as possible if you’re having trouble hearing after a cold.

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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.