It seems like allergies have a corner on the misery market whenever pollen blows through the air. More than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year which some scientists call the “great masqueraders,” since they are suspected of causing many ailments and audiological problems.
Along with runny noses, headaches and chronic post-nasal drip, allergies can also cause temporary hearing loss.
If you detect hearing loss when your allergies flare up it’s important to get your hearing checked in order to diagnose and treat the root cause.
Allergies usually affect the middle ear, a type of hearing loss called conductive hearing loss. In fact, the Hearing Loss Association of America states that allergies are one of the main causes of conductive hearing loss. Allergies can affect the three major structures in the ear and cause temporary hearing loss when it strikes two of them:
- The Outer Ear: If you have allergic skin reactions – to laundry detergent, dogs and cats, perfume, or earrings, etc. – the outer ear can be affected. Itching and swelling can result.
- The Middle Ear: If allergies cause fluid or wax to build up in the middle ear, the Eustachian tube may not be able to drain properly. The Eustachian tube runs from the back of the top of the throat to the middle ear and is designed to drain fluid from the ear. If it becomes blocked then fluid and pressure can build up, become infected and cause hearing loss.If a child has repeated ear infections, it is important to treat the ear infection and seek an evaluation for allergies. Repeated ear infections can cause hearing loss in children during their important language development years. Diagnosing the cause of the ear infections is essential.Adult allergies can also cause mild hearing loss from fluid build-up and Eustachian tube dysfunction. Understanding the exact allergy causing the infection can require a few tests because it can be a combination of internal, external and/or food allergies.
- The Inner Ear: Allergies may also diminish hearing in individuals with inner ear disorders such as Meniere’s disease, a disorder of the inner ear resulting in severe dizziness, ringing in the ears, and hearing loss. Many studies have shown that those with Meniere’s disease are more susceptible to allergies.
- Blocked sinuses can also lead to temporary hearing loss. When sinuses become blocked they cause the Eustachian tube to swell, closing the connection between the middle ear and the throat. If this occurs more than three times a year or for more than 10 days in duration, there may be an undiagnosed and underlying allergy causing the condition.How do you treat allergy induced hearing loss?
The first step is to consult a hearing specialist when you detect even mild hearing loss while suffering from allergies. Your hearing should be tested and the level of the loss diagnosed by an expert. Once it is determined that allergies are the culprit, the treatment will vary according to the allergy:
- Ear infections are typically treated with antibiotics
- Food allergies are typically treated with avoidance: by avoiding the food that causes the allergy
- Other allergies are commonly treated with an antihistamine to block the reaction to the allergen and a decongestant to decrease swelling enough to avoid infection
- In moderate to severe cases of allergies, a series of shots can be administered to develop a resistance to the allergy, also called immunotherapy
- There are new prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs that treat allergies effectively for some people
- Steroids can also be administered to reduce inflammation
Hearing Loss: Types, Causes and Treatment
The Link Between Allergy and Menière’s Disease