How Allergies Impact Hearing
You’re sneezing, have itchy eyes and a watery nose. It’s allergy season! Allergies can affect more than your eyes and nose, your ears can also suffer. If you have itchy ears, swelling or that feeling of fullness in your ears, there’s a good chance you are experiencing how allergies impact hearing.
What causes allergies?
A simple example of an allergy is a mosquito bite. Your body responds to the bite by producing antibodies that release histamine, which causes the itch. In this case, that’s the allergic response. Allergies to pollen or grass may cause sneezing, congestion and production of mucus. Animal dander and dust mites also can cause allergic reaction any time of the year and some people have food allergies.
Most allergies affect the middle ear, the location of the Eustachian tube. This part of your ear serves as a drainage tube, similar to a pressure release valve. If the tube is clogged with mucus, pressure builds, making it difficult to hear. This is called conductive hearing loss. The problem usually is temporary and resolves itself as the allergic reaction fades.
Middle ear infections, known as otitis media, are more common in children than adults. A doctor may recommend allergy tests if these ear infections occur regularly. Outer ear infections are generally caused by bacteria and may not be related to allergies.
How do allergies impact ears?
Allergy symptoms can affect all three parts of your ear. In the outer ear, you can experience swelling or itching. In the middle ear, fluid build-up can cause earaches or pressure. This pressure is uncomfortable and also can cause balance issues. The fluid also can harbor bacteria, leading to infection. In the inner ear, allergies can affect people who have inner-ear disorders like Meniere’s disease (a disorder that includes vertigo, tinnitus and deafness).
When to see a doctor for treatment
If you’re suffering from other allergy symptoms such as itchy eyes and a stuffy nose, over-the-counter medication may help your ears as well. Antihistamines can reduce the inflammation caused by the allergy, while decongestants will help with a clogged nose and ears. Because ear pressure can be a symptom of many other problems, it’s advisable to see a doctor if the pressure doesn’t go away or becomes painful. Continued pressure can lead to hearing loss.
Also, if your allergy symptoms include ringing in the ears (tinnitus) or vertigo (dizziness), a visit to a hearing care provider is in order.
As many as 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children reportedly suffer from some type of allergy. Because allergies can cause temporary and in some rare cases permanent hearing loss, it’s important to know how allergies impact hearing and to address any problems early on.