It’s that time of year when the seasons are beginning to change. For allergy sufferers, that can mean itchy eyes and stuffy noses. It might surprise you to find out that it could also mean hearing loss for many people. Your hearing and auditory systems are extremely complex, and can in fact be affected by an allergic reaction.
An allergic reaction is a body’s way of responding to a perceived threat. Your immune system will identify a foreign body, such as an infection, and work to fight this off. In the process, your immune system will create antibodies designed to help fight off the same infection in the future.
The problem is the immune system is far from perfect. Sometimes harmless substances like dust or pollen will have been marked as a threat by your immune system, and antibodies subsequently produced. Once this occurs, these foreign bodies will always seem like a threat. This is how an allergy comes to be. For allergy sufferers, this means every time you come in contact with this allergen, i.e. the dust or pollen, your immune system will respond. By definition, an allergy means you are hypersensitive to something that is harmless to most people.
Seasonal Allergies and Hearing Loss
Each year, millions of people in this U.S. seek treatment for seasonal allergies. Common symptoms of allergies, such as congestion, may cause people not to notice a change in their hearing. The ears rely on sound waves reaching a nerve in the inner ear, and allergies can interfere with that process.
An allergic response typically leads to swelling and congestion. This can, in turn, change the fluid pressure and prevent sound from traveling to the inner ear. This often manifests as a sense of fullness or feeling of pressure in the ear. The body can also produce more earwax in response to an allergy, thereby creating a buildup that blocks sound.
The Skin and Allergies
An allergic response can affect the skin, causing inflammation or a rash. The skin in the ear is also at risk when allergies strike. As the ear canal is covered with skin, if it swells it could potentially become inflamed enough to close the ear passage and prevent sound from entering further into the ear.
Allergies and the Middle Ear
The middle ear is the area most often affected by allergies. This region contains tubes that allow fluid to drain and control the pressure inside the ear. An allergic reaction closes the tubes, allowing fluid and pressure to build. This makes it hard to hear.
How to Recognize Allergy-Related Hearing Loss
If you are prone to allergies, these symptoms will be familiar:
- Itching inside the ear canal
- Chronic ear infections
- Fullness inside the ear
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)