Allergies and Your Ears

The pollen is swirling, air quality warnings are widespread and allergy suffers are taking refuge indoors while keeping a jaundiced eye on the trees and flowers. Yes, it must be allergy season again! If runny noses, itchy eyes and sneezing aren’t enough of a problem, many allergy suffers also complain of stuffy ears accompanied by hearing loss from allergies. Fortunately, allergy induced hearing loss is treatable but it can certainly be uncomfortable, annoying and disruptive to your daily activities. So what is the relation between allergies and hearing loss and what can be done to treat it?

When you have an allergy to something, your immune system responds by producing certain antibodies that release histamine into your system. The histamine triggers an increase in mucus production which causes the symptoms we see in allergy sufferers. The problem with all this excess mucus is that it can build up in your middle ear causing it to become blocked, which diminishes its conductive ability. This type of hearing loss is (obviously) called conductive hearing loss. It can occur when anything interferes with sound wave conduction such as mucus or excessive ear wax.

There are also times when the outer ear reacts to an allergen and swells up; the swelling can block the opening to the middle year causing the Eustachian tube to not drain effectively. A buildup of fluid and pressure can occur which not only causes hearing problems, but it also creates a condition that is ripe for infection. Allergies can affect your ears in other ways as well, such as chronic itching of the outer ear canal, frequent infections in either the outer or middle ear, dizziness and tinnitus.

The good news is that hearing loss or other ear problems associated with allergies is usually temporary and only lasts for a short period of time. By treating the allergies with medication containing a decongestant, drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, salt and tobacco products which affect your circulation can help relieve your hearing loss. If the hearing loss is severe however and doesn’t seem to go away, you might want to check with your audiologist to see if there is another underlying condition causing the hearing loss.

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