hearing loss in cold and flu season

Hearing Loss During Cold & Flu Season

Can the cold and flu season affect your hearing?

Head colds and congestion can cause fluid to build up in your sinuses and ears making hearing more difficult during the illness.

This type of hearing loss is called conductive. The fluid in the middle ear makes it hard for the eardrum to vibrate and for sound waves to travel through the ear. Fluid buildup can decrease your ability to hear by 24 decibels making sound muffled or indistinct. The hearing loss is usually temporary with your hearing returning in a few days to a few weeks.

Tinnitus (high pitched ringing, cicadas, thumping) can also begin or increase when you have a head cold or the flu.

If your symptoms persist, the congestion can lead to infection. This will require antibiotics to address the bacteria and help eliminate the fluid buildup. Although it is rare, longstanding infectious fluid can lead to permanent, sensorineural hearing loss. 

If your hearing loss is sudden, it is important to see a physician within 48 hours so treatment can be initiated.

What to do:

1. Wash hands often. Decrease time spent with people who might be sick.
2. Rest.
3. Consider a decongestant to alleviate some of the fluid buildups.
4. Drink lots of fluids.
5. Stay on top of changes. If things don’t improve in 14  – 21 days or you’re experiencing pain, make an appointment with your physician to see if there’s anything more serious happening.

Your audiologist plays a vital role when changes in hearing occur.  Be sure to communicate your symptoms to them so that the appropriate management can be initiated.