Sufferers of seasonal or environmental allergies are familiar with many of the most common symptoms. Itchy eyes, runny nose, sinus pressure – none of them are surprising. But you may not know that allergies can also lead to hearing difficulties and other ear problems.
How Allergies Cause Hearing Problems
Most people who suffer from allergies know the basic cause of their problems. Allergens such as dust, pollen, or animal dander enter your body or contact your skin and cause a reaction from your immune system. One of the responses of your immune system is to release histamine, a hormone that produces the “classic” allergy symptoms like sneezing, running nose, and congestion. However, histamine can also cause increased mucus production in the sinuses, and it can cause blood vessels and skin to swell – which can lead to hearing problems.
This is what’s known as conductive hearing loss – hearing loss caused by a loss of sound conductivity in your ear. Conductive hearing loss can be caused by many things, such as unwanted fluid in the ear or a buildup of earwax. Conductive hearing loss is usually curable, but it can make it difficult to hear while the causes persist. If left untreated, it can also cause more lasting damage to your hearing.
Allergies’ Effects on Your Ears
Your ear has three major regions, and each one of them is affected differently by allergic reactions. If you’re not sure whether allergies are affecting your hearing, it can help to know the different ways they can cause trouble.
Outer Ear Problems
Your outer ear is the visible part of your ear – the actual external ear structure and the opening of your ear canal. Allergic reactions on your skin can cause swelling, itching, and pain around your outer ear and in your ear canal. Remember that it’s very important not to try to scratch these itches, either with your finger or with an implement like a Q-tip or bobby pin. Doing so could cause irreversible damage to your ear or lead to serious infections and other problems.
Middle Ear Problems
The middle ear is the part of the ear that is most vulnerable to allergies and infection. It consists of several small tubes and openings, each of which can be affected by swelling or fluid buildup. For instance, allergies can cause fluid to block your Eustachian tubes, which can lead to feelings of blockage or “fullness” in your ears and sinuses. It can also allow bacteria to sit in your middle ear, which can lead to ear infections and other problems. Allergies can also cause loss of balance and feelings of dizziness or vertigo for the same reasons.
Inner Ear Problems
The inner ear is the most delicate part of your ear, but it’s also relatively resistant to allergic reactions. However, severe swelling in the outer or middle ear can lead to problems in your inner ear as well, and a serious infection could also damage the sensitive nerve endings and bone structures present here. Finally, allergies may contribute to hearing loss in people who suffer from Meniere’s disease.
If you do think your allergies are causing hearing problems, your best option is to visit either a hearing or allergy specialist to get treatment. Prescription antihistamines can prevent many of the symptoms of allergies, and a doctor’s visit can also ensure you don’t have any ear infections or other lingering problems.
Can Allergies Affect Hearing Aids?
If you already wear hearing aids, you might think allergies won’t cause any additional problems. However, even hearing aid wearers need to be aware of allergens.
First, any swelling or fluid buildup can further reduce your ability to hear. This often leads to hearing aid wearers overcompensating by turning the volume on their hearing aids up. But if you aren’t careful you could also damage your hearing by exposing it to too much loud noise from your hearing aid, especially if the fluid in your ears suddenly shifts or drains.
Secondly, allergens can actually clog or damage your hearing aids themselves. Dust, pollen, and hair can clog the microphone port or get into the battery compartment, which can lead to interference or damage. It’s always good practice to clean your hearing aids regularly to avoid these problems.
How We Can Help
In most cases, allergies are temporary, and so is the hearing difficulty they cause. Whether your allergies are seasonal or a reaction to a certain substance, your hearing should return when your allergy symptoms subside. Antihistamines and other allergy medications can also help you regain your hearing and control your allergy symptoms.
However, if your hearing does not return to normal after a bout with your allergies, you may need additional help. At Oklahoma Hearing Center, we can diagnose and treat your hearing issues regardless of the cause. Contact us today by calling 405-546-4280 or visiting us on Facebook to learn more.