Spring has sprung! Along with ushering in warmer weather and beautiful blossoms, the season unfortunately increases pollen production and allergy symptoms. Although airborne allergens exist throughout the year, we see a dramatic increase in patients who suffer from allergy-related hearing loss and tinnitus in springtime. This may lead you to wonder: Do allergies cause hearing loss or tinnitus? Yes, in fact, allergies can impact hearing.
Allergic rhinitis, more commonly referred to as “hay fever,” can cause a variety of symptoms, including itchy eyes, sneezing, a runny nose, a feeling of pressure in the ear, and the sensation that the ear is clogged. For some patients, the inflammation and/or excess fluid diminishes the person’s ability to hear or creates tinnitus symptoms (ringing in the ears). Those already suffering from tinnitus may hear louder ringing or experience worsening tinnitus symptoms.
Do Allergies Cause Hearing Loss?
Allergies and Hearing Loss
The immune system responds to allergies by producing antibodies that release the compound histamine. Histamine causes itchy eyes, sneezing, and a runny nose – essentially, hay fever. This excess mucus production can obstruct the Eustachian tube, which is the drainage passage for the middle ear. The middle ear amplifies and transfers sound from the outer ear to the inner ear. Therefore, any inflammation or blockage in this area can interfere with your sense of hearing and/or cause an ear infection.
Dr. Julie Prutsman, the owner and founder of Sound Relief Hearing Center, describes the relationship between allergies and hearing loss in the following way: “Oftentimes allergic patients complain of a slight hearing loss and a sense of fullness or pressure. Usually a hearing test will show some hearing loss, and a tympanogram will reveal reduced mobility of the tympanic membrane. That means the middle ear has some fluid or inflammation that may need to be addressed with medication.”
Types of Allergy-Related Hearing Issues
Fullness: Excess fluid in the ear creates pressure or a clogged feeling in the ear. The fluid presses against the eardrum, causing discomfort and making it more difficult to hear. In most cases, this discomfort will dissipate with time. However, if you are experiencing any pain, this could be a symptom of an ear infection, and you should seek medical attention immediately.
Conductive Hearing Loss: Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot properly flow through the ear and into the tiny bones of the middle ear. Excess fluid or ear wax may interfere with sound as it travels to the cochlea. Although conductive hearing loss is curable and may improve naturally, it is difficult to determine if hearing loss is temporary, curable, or permanent without thorough testing. If you experience sudden or noticeable hearing loss, schedule an appointment with a hearing specialist right away. The longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to treat – and you don’t want to reach the point of no return. This is your hearing we’re talking about, after all!
Tinnitus: Allergy-related tinnitus occurs when tinnitus only develops alongside other allergy symptoms. If you suffer from tinnitus for several months of the year due to allergies, contact Sound Relief Hearing Center for help.
When to See a Hearing Specialist
Worsening Tinnitus: Some people who experience mild irritation or annoyance due to tinnitus find that the ringing or high-pitched sound worsens with allergies. Unremitting tinnitus can interfere with your ability to hear, your mood, your sleep, and your quality of life. If you or someone you know suffers from tinnitus, don’t give up hope. We can help! Dr. Julie and her team of doctors at Sound Relief Hearing Center specialize in personalized tinnitus relief solutions. Please give us a call or browse our website for more information.