How Do Allergies Affect Your Hearing?
Millions of people suffer from seasonal allergies. We’re familiar with the sneezing, itchy and watery eyes and stuffy nose. But do you know how allergies affect your hearing? Some of the same sensations that impact your eyes and nose can also affect your ears.
Causes of allergies
Allergies are caused by an immune response to a foreign substance, such as pollen, grass, fur, dust mites and drugs. Allergies can be triggered through contact with these substances, or sometimes may be inherited. Your immune system produces histamines to fight the foreign substance, which results in itching, swelling and mucus production.
Symptoms of allergies
Your ears react to allergies in a few ways. Often, people experience a feeling of “fullness” or heaviness with an allergic reaction. It may feel as if you’re underwater. Also, your ears may itch or you may notice an increased ringing in your ears. You may have an earache. Some people experience a temporary loss of hearing, known as a conductive hearing loss. This usually goes away when the allergy symptoms fade.
Allergies and your ear health
Your ear has three parts – the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. An allergic reaction can affect all three parts. The outer ear can swell or itch. The middle ear can have a build-up of fluid, which can cause earaches or pressure. The fluid may harbor bacteria that can lead to infection, or the pressure may cause balance problems. Allergies affect the inner ear most often in people with inner-ear disorders such as Meniere’s disease (a disorder that includes vertigo, tinnitus and deafness).
Sometimes sinus pain can radiate into the ear, causing discomfort.
Treatment for allergies
Most allergy symptoms will resolve themselves when the allergies go away. Over-the-counter medicines such as antihistamines or decongestants usually will take care of any ear issues along with your stuffy nose and itchy eyes. It may be necessary to see a hearing health professional if ear pressure doesn’t subside or becomes painful. It can be a symptom of other problems and continued pressure in the ear can lead to hearing loss.
If your allergy symptoms include vertigo (dizziness) or tinnitus (ringing in the ears), see a hearing care provider.
Allergies and hearing aids
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may notice that you have to increase the volume of your hearing aids. It’s important to consult with your audiologist about volume adjustment.
Also, if you spend time outside, pollen may actually clog the ports of your hearing aids. A spring cleaning can help avoid the problem.
More often than not, seasonal allergies can be treated quickly and easily with over-the-counter medications. Allergy symptoms that affect your hearing usually will fade with treatment. However, if you have any serious ear problems, it’s important to see your hearing specialist to determine if further treatment is needed.