Are Your Seasonal Allergies Affecting Your Hearing?
It may not be a coincidence that every year around mid-September to mid-November, you feel like you have an annoying cold you cannot shake. That sneezing, coughing, runny nose, and itchy throat could be Fall allergies. Additionally, do you sense that your hearing is muffled, sounding as though you have earplugs in your ears? Unfortunately, fall allergies and hearing loss often march hand in hand.
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
For those who are sensitive, being exposed to allergens sets off a chain reaction in the body. Triggers such as ragweed, pollen, and dust create a direct response. Consequently in the Fall, a major trigger is also a combination of mold and moisture from leaves; a particular that most people don’t often consider. Specific cells in the body produce antibodies that release histamine and other chemicals into the bloodstream. The histamine then acts on a person’s eyes, nose, throat, lungs, skin, or gastrointestinal tract, consequently producing an allergic response. The resulting sneezing, itching, and congestion prompt an increase in mucus production, which can cause conductive hearing loss.
Is Conductive Hearing Loss Permanent?
Conductive hearing loss occurs when something, such as excess fluid, disrupts sound waves from flowing through the eardrum or the tiny bones of the middle ear. Further, this may occur in one or the other, or even both areas. Conductive hearing loss occurs when there are problems with the ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear. It can occur at any time and any age. There are a variety of causes:
- structural deformities
- fluid in the middle ear
- ear infection
- impacted earwax
- perforated eardrum
- foreign objects in the ear
- benign tumors
Most conductive hearing losses may be treatable, with medicine or surgery, but it makes it temporarily difficult to hear.
How are the Parts of the Ear Affected by Seasonal Allergies?
Direct contact with the allergen may result in a skin reaction causing swelling and itching on the outer ear and inside the canal.
The Eustachian tubes won’t open properly for effective pressure equalization or drainage, due to swelling of tonsils or adenoids in the back of the throat. Thus fluid and pressure build-up, causes a sense of “fullness” in the affected area. Furthermore, the blockage creates a breeding ground for bacteria and infection. These combined issues may result in tinnitus, light-headedness or dizziness, often referred to as vertigo.
Allergies may also contribute to hearing loss for people who have Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder that affects hearing and balance.
*NOTE* We NEVER recommend using a cotton swab or bobby pin to relieve excessive itching. Never allow any item to enter the ear canal as this could harm the ear causing permanent damage. Always consult with your doctor. They may prescribe ear drops or professionally flush your ears.
Will My Hearing Aids Be Affected?
The combination of swelling, fluid retention, and bacteria could create the perfect environment for ear infections. Additionally, allergens, such as dust, may clog the microphone ports in your hearing aids. Regular cleaning of your hearing aids is important and advisable. If you experience significant issues, make an appointment with your audiologist or hearing healthcare provider.
What Can I Do If I Have Fall Allergies and Hearing Loss?
Never dismiss any degree of hearing loss. At HASA, we have a full-service hearing clinic. We offer hearing aid demonstrations and check-ups in the office. Our team of clinicians can assist with hearing testing and hearing aid maintenance. If you have any concerns about your hearing or hearing aids, contact HASA to schedule an appointment at (410) 318-6780.