Whether it’s the onset of hay fever or just your typical head cold, the end-of-winter, start-of-spring season can wreak havoc on even the healthiest immune system. However, what most people don’t consider is the impact coughing and congestion can have on otherwise healthy ears. Take caution this cold and flu season to avoid these two conditions:
Conductive hearing loss
This is the more common of the two occurrences and is luckily much more temporary. Conductive hearing loss happens when sound waves are blocked from the inner ear due to sinus issues or other related flu symptoms. The Eustachian Tube, which connects the middle ear with the nose and throat, can face a buildup of fluid in the nose or sinuses that restricts sound waves to the inner ear. The good news is, once you’re feeling well again, the fluid and pressure will decrease and your hearing should go back to normal! If it doesn’t, consult a physician immediately.
Sensorineural hearing loss
Unfortunately, flu season can do permanent damage to ears, so it’s best to be aware of signs and symptoms as they arise. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss, which is described as the unexpected loss of most or all of hearing in one or both ears, usually sets in within three days and is a result of the flu virus attacking delicate parts of the inner ear. This includes the inner ear itself, the nerves surrounding it, or hair cells that transmit sound signals to the brain. Any such damage is considered an emergency and should be treated as such. One common treatment your doctor may recommend is the use of steroids, but take caution if they recommend “waiting it out.” General practitioners may not be familiar with sensorineural hearing loss and therefore may mistake it for conductive, in which case they won’t try to treat it until the flu has subsided but symptoms persist. At that point, the damage has been done and the effects are permanent. It’s crucial to see a hearing specialist if you notice sudden hearing loss during your illness.