Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

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. One kind of cold you don’t often hear about is the one that goes into one or more ears. While you may generally think of colds as harmless, here’s why this ear-related cold symptom shouldn’t ever be ignored.

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

It’s not unusual to feel some blockage in your ears when you have a common cold. After all, your ears and sinuses are linked. Usually, when you take 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. The eardrum can become infected if the cold moves into the ears. And that will cause inflammation. The immune system reacts to the cold by generating fluid that can build up on the eardrum. Frequently, a slow leaking fluid accompanies this inflammation. Because it’s a slow leak, it’s most noticeable when you sleep on your side.

This impacts how well you hear over the short term, which is called conductive hearing loss. But long term hearing loss can also take place if this inflammation causes the eardrum to burst. In turn, more permanent damage happens to the hearing nerves from the inflammation, which is called sensorineural hearing loss.

It could be costly if you wait

If you’re experiencing ear pain, have your ears tested by us. It’s not unusual for a primary care physician to wait until the cold goes away because they assume the ear pain will go away with it. Occasionally, a patient won’t even remember to mention any pain they might be experiencing in their ear. But the infection has most likely gotten to the point where it’s causing damage to the ear if you’re feeling pain. It’s paramount that the ear infection be treated immediately to avoid more harm.

In many instances, ear pain will linger even after the cold goes away. Most individuals typically make the decision to consult a hearing specialist at this point. But at this point, a lot of damage has already been done. Irreversible hearing loss is often the consequence and that’s even more true with people who experience ear infections regularly.

After a while, hearing acuity is impacted by the small-scale scars and lacerations of the eardrum which are the consequence of ear infections. The eardrum is a buffer between the 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 enters the inner ear, it can irreversibly damage the nerve cells needed to hear.

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

Don’t beat yourself up. Most people simply think ear pain with a cold is normal when it actually points to a much more significant cold infection. You should schedule an appointment for a hearing exam as soon as you can if you are experiencing hearing loss after a cold.

We will determine if you’re dealing with conductive, or temporary hearing loss. If this is the case, you might have an obstruction in your ear that needs to be extracted 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.

Make an appointment right away 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.
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