One out of every five people deals with allergies in Houston. They’re more common in the spring and summer months but can occur year-round. Most sufferers are familiar with the usual cold-like symptoms that accompany an allergy attack, but few realize that in some cases, allergies can cause temporary hearing loss.
How Allergies Affect the Ears
Allergies are an immune system response to a substance the body perceives as a threat. To defend itself, chemicals called histamines are released into the bloodstream. These cause inflammation, itchiness and excess mucus production. Sufferers experience symptoms that include runny nose; sneezing; itchy, watery eyes and postnasal drip. The most common allergens are pollen, pet dander, mold, dust mites, chemicals, environmental irritants and foods.
Symptoms aren’t confined to the nasal passages. Allergies can also affect different portions of the ears, causing itchiness, pressure and fullness in the ear, infections, dizziness, tinnitus (a ringing in the ears) and even hearing loss.
The outer ear is prone to allergies that occur when skin comes into contact with pollen, insect bites or metals such as nickel. These can cause the ear canal to swell, preventing sound from entering the ears. This may lead to temporary hearing loss.
The Eustachian tubes – organs in the middle ear that are responsible for equalizing pressure – may become inflamed in response to allergies. This can cause excess music to build up, leading to a plugged-up sensation. Infection can occur; if left untreated, permanent hearing loss could result.
Allergies can cause inner ear disorders such as Meniere’s disease to flare up, making symptoms more pronounced.
The only sure-fire way to avoid allergic reactions is to keep away from allergen triggers, but unless you plan to lock yourself in the house for months at a time this isn’t realistic. Instead, your Houston ENT doctor suggests trying home remedies to relieve discomfort. Over-the-counter pain medications such as Tylenol, Advil and Motrin usually help. You can also use eardrops. Gently holding a warm compress against the ear can ease pain. Get plenty of rest so your body is able to fight off an infection. If symptoms are persistent or recur frequently, your doctor might recommend immunotherapy. This long-term treatment involves allergy shots or drops and is designed to help your body build up a tolerance to the allergen.
If you’d like relief from your allergies or have questions about side effects such as hearing loss, schedule an appointment with an hearing specialist in Houston.
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