The common cold is a viral infection that impacts the upper respiratory system, which includes the nose, throat, and sinuses. It is a prevalent illness in humans, with adults usually experiencing it two to four times a year on average.
If you have a cold, you might experience symptoms such as sneezing, sore throat, coughing, and fatigue. However, it can also result in more severe complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
It is also possible that the common cold could cause ear infections or hearing loss.
How a Cold Affects Hearing Loss
Having a cold can cause temporary hearing loss because of increased mucus production and swelling in the nasal passages and throat. This can obstruct the middle ear and result in conductive hearing loss, which is caused by a physical blockage of sound waves.
Temporary hearing loss caused by colds can typically be treated with medications or by waiting for the cold to clear up on its own.
The Risk of Permanent Hearing Loss
Sometimes, catching a cold can result in permanent hearing damage. If you develop an ear infection (otitis media) due to a cold virus, the infection may harm your eardrum or middle ear permanently.
Other illnesses related to colds, like sinusitis and meningitis, can also lead to hearing loss. Moreover, if one experiences ongoing hearing loss after a cold, it may suggest a hidden condition like Ménière’s disease.
Ménière’s disease is a condition that impacts hearing and balance, which stems from a disorder in the inner ear. The illness is not common and typically results in episodes of vertigo, tinnitus, ear fullness, and occasionally, short-term hearing loss.
Although the exact cause is unknown, experts believe that Meniere’s disease might be caused by fluctuating fluid levels in the inner ear. It may also be linked to bacterial infections or health conditions like the common cold, allergies, and stress.
Preventing Hearing Loss Associated With a Cold
To prevent hearing loss caused by a cold, it is best to avoid catching the cold altogether.
Washing your hands regularly with soap and water, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, and getting the flu shot can all help protect you from catching a cold.
If you do get a cold, it is important to seek medical attention if you experience any symptoms of ear infection or hearing loss that persist for more than 24 hours. Doing so will help identify any underlying health condition and prevent potential hearing damage.
When Should You See a Doctor?
It is crucial to consult with your doctor if you still have trouble hearing even after recovering from a cold. Although a common cold can lead to temporary hearing loss, it is necessary to exclude other factors that may result in permanent damage.
To better understand your hearing issues and determine the best treatment, your doctor may conduct an auditory test. If the damage is permanent, they may recommend hearing aids or other assistive devices.
Temporary hearing loss may occur due to an obstruction in the middle ear from a common cold. However, serious illnesses that are linked with colds may cause permanent damage. It is important to be mindful of any unusual symptoms and to seek medical attention if necessary.
Practicing prevention measures as mentioned above can also help in avoiding hearing loss from a common cold. By staying healthy and taking the necessary precautions, you can reduce your risk of hearing loss caused by colds.