The allergy season can bring more than sniffles and sneezes. The buildup of fluid in your ears can lead to pain and loss of hearing, a disconcerting experience for anyone. If you're struggling to tell the difference between temporary conductive hearing loss and a permanent condition, this article can help you tell the difference.
Pollen season is a stressful time for everyone, especially those with hearing loss. For those that already experience trouble hearing, congestion can exacerbate their hearing loss and make it difficult to get through the season. Conductive hearing loss can lead to dizziness, pain, and tinnitus. If you already suffer from hearing loss, this can cause concerns about your condition worsening. If you use hearing aids, fluid in the ears can make it painful and difficult to use your hearing aids.
In order to help with both those problems, this article will cover all aspects of seasonal allergies and their effects on the ears.
Can Allergies Cause Hearing Loss and Tinnitus?
Allergies, by definition, are caused by your immune system reacting to allergens by releasing antibodies and histamine. This leads to the typical symptoms of allergies: congestion, sniffling, and a runny nose. However, did you know that allergies are directly tied to hearing difficulties, and even temporary hearing loss?
If you've ever had an ear infection, or fluid buildup in your ears, you probably know the experience of conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss occurs when something blocks the path to your eardrum or inner ear. This prevents the vibrations from being processed into sound, causing hearing loss or muffled hearing.
For those that already suffer from sensorineural hearing loss, this can be a serious issue. Conductive hearing loss combined with existing hearing problems can result in serious trouble hearing, if not complete loss of hearing. If you wear hearing aids, conductive hearing loss may interfere with how you use these devices.
Before the problem can be properly dealt with, you need to determine whether the issue is actually caused by allergies, or a symptom of a larger issue.
Telling the Difference Between Allergies and Hearing Loss
Many people might put off a hearing test until allergy season is over. However, if your hearing loss doesn't go away after the season is over, you might have a more serious problem.
The only person that can definitely determine the difference between allergies and hearing loss is an audiologist. However, if you've experienced temporary hearing loss in the past, you can rest easy knowing that your issues are most likely caused by allergies.
Allergy-related hearing loss is usually accompanied by dizziness, loss of hearing on one side, congestion, or an earache. As the fluid shifts around in your ear, your pain levels and hearing might change as well. However, if your hearing loss persists for a long period of time, you should see a doctor about the issue.
Many people discover they have permanent hearing loss after visiting the audiologist for allergies. The allergies don't cause the hearing loss -- rather, they had existing hearing loss, and the allergies exacerbated the issue. If you still struggle to hear after pollen season is over, get a hearing test. You might be surprised by the results.
In most cases, permanent hearing loss is caused by the degradation of the cochlea. Hearing loss of this kind will affect certain frequencies of sound; for example, someone with sensorineural hearing loss will struggle to hear women's voices or consonants in speech.
Meanwhile, conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a blockage in the ear. This might result in tinnitus and a muffled quality to all sound. Mixed hearing loss might also occur, where both types of hearing loss are present. If you already have sensorineural hearing loss, congestion may cause you to experience mixed hearing loss during allergy season.
Dealing With Temporary Hearing Loss
If you've never experience temporary hearing loss before, you might feel seriously distressed. However, rest assured, most cases of allergy-related hearing loss clear up relatively quickly. Medicated ear drops and allergy medications can help you cope in the meantime, and it's unlikely that you will experience complete deafness.
Chances are, your conductive hearing loss will feel like someone's plugged your ears. If your condition is worse than this, you should consider seeing a doctor for treatment. They might prescribe medication to clear up the blockage.
It's important that you avoid putting things in your ears. This includes earbuds, q-tips, and other foreign objects. That can worsen the blockage and cause pain or damage. If you use hearing aids, try to use them sparingly, and do not turn up the volume to combat your worsened condition. As the fluid clears or shifts, the high volume can damage your ears further.
Coping With Allergies As A Hearing Aid Wearer
As mentioned above, temporary conductive hearing loss can interfere with your hearing aids. You should avoid using your hearing aids for prolonged periods of time during pollen season, as they might worsen any blockages you're experiencing.
You should also check your hearing aids for excess earwax. You should clean your hearing aids often, but you should double your cleaning routine during allergy season. Otherwise, your hearing aids might become damaged by buildup.
Regardless of whether or not you use hearing aids, you should get your hearing checked after pollen season is over. A hearing test can make sure your congestion or ear infection has cleared up and check on the overall quality of your hearing. If your hearing has deteriorated over the year, you can catch this change before it begins affecting your daily life.
While allergy season brings misery for nearly everyone, it can be a serious issue for those with sensitive ears, existing hearing loss, or a tendency towards congestion. Luckily, pollen is only an issue for a few months, and you can enjoy unclogged sinuses for the rest of the year.
However, your hearing should be a concern every season of the year. A lot can change in a few months, so keep a close eye on how you're hearing. If something begins to change, or you start struggling to make out certain sounds, schedule a visit with your audiologist. They can help you tackle issues before they begin causing serious problems.
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