Allergies and Your Ear Health
Allergies affect millions of people, especially in the spring and fall. Itchy eyes, scratchy throat, stuffy nose, all the common symptoms – right? What about allergies and your ears? Allergies can affect your ears, hearing, and even balance.
How do allergies impact your ears?
Your ears are made up of three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. Allergies most often affect the middle ear, where the Eustachian tube is located. This tube drains excess fluid from the ear and is a pressure-release value of sorts. It is a connection from the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat. It’s one reason why your ears may pop when you have a stuffed up nose or mucus in your throat. When allergies cause mucus production, the Eustachian tube may not drain properly, causing a feeling of fullness in the ear, similar to being underwater.
What about middle ear infections?
When fluid builds up in the middle ear, an infection can occur. Young children commonly experience middle ear infections, sometimes due to allergies. In this case, a doctor may recommend allergy testing.
Symptoms of a middle ear infection in children include difficulty sleeping, crying, irritability, ear pain, fever, pulling at the ear or difficulty hearing.
Adults can also experience many of the same symptoms, including diminished hearing or short-term hearing loss. This is called conductive hearing loss and usually resolves itself when the allergic reaction is treated. Dizziness and loss of balance also may occur when the Eustachian tube is clogged.
More serious symptoms include drainage of fluid from the ear, balance problems, and severe ear pain, which should be treated by your health care provider.
Treatments for allergy problems
Many over-the-counter allergy medications can help alleviate allergic reactions in the ears. Antihistamines and decongestants can relieve itching and mucus. Pain relievers can help with earaches, as can eardrops. Sometimes a warm compress can help. If an infection is present, your doctor may recommend antibiotics.
Ear tubes may be recommended for children with persistent middle ear infections. A tiny tube is surgically inserted in the eardrum to allow air into the middle ear and to drain fluid. The ear tubes may stay in for several months. The eardrum will heal on its own.
If you wear hearing aids
Because allergies can sometimes cause a decrease in hearing, you may have to temporarily adjust the volume of your hearing aids. If you spend time outdoors, pollen and dust can clog the ports of your hearing aids. Consult with your audiologist concerning these issues.
Allergies can impact adults and children and not only affect your eyes, nose and throat, but also your ears. Usually allergies can be treated with over-the-counter medications, but if symptoms reoccur often or there’s a lot of pain, it’s time to see a health care professional.