Allergens like dust, pollen, or animal dander enter your body or make contact with your skin and cause a reaction from your immune system. Your immune system releases histamine, a hormone that produces the “classic” allergy symptoms like sneezing, running nose, and congestion. However, histamine can also cause increased mucus production in the sinuses, and it can cause blood vessels and skin to swell which can lead to hearing problems.
This is known as conductive hearing loss, or hearing loss caused by a loss of sound conductivity in your ear. Conductive hearing loss can be caused by many different things, like unwanted fluid in the ear or a buildup of earwax. Conductive hearing loss is usually curable, but it can make it difficult to hear while the causes continue. If left untreated, it can also cause more permanent damage to your hearing.
Your ear has three major regions and your allergies can affect all three of these regions in different ways. Let’s break it down:
The outer ear is the visible part of the ear. It is the actual external ear structure and the opening of your ear canal. Some individuals may be allergic to their laundry detergent, fragrance or earrings. Others may have allergies to household pets, like dogs and cats. Allergic reactions on your skin can cause swelling, itching, and pain around your outer ear and in your ear canal. Remember that it’s very important not to try to scratch these itches, either with your finger or with an object like a Q-tip or pen. Doing so could cause irreversible damage to your ear or lead to serious infections and other problems.
The middle ear is the part of the ear that is most vulnerable to allergies and infection. It is made up of several small tubes and openings, that can be affected by swelling or fluid buildup. For example, allergies can cause fluid to block your Eustachian tubes, which can lead to feelings of blockage or fullness in your ears and sinuses. It can also allow bacteria to sit in your middle ear, which can lead to ear infections and other problems. Allergies can also cause loss of balance and feelings of dizziness or vertigo for the same reasons.
The inner ear is the most delicate part of the ear, but it’s also relatively resistant to allergic reactions since it is deeper inside. However, severe swelling in the outer or middle ear can lead to problems in your inner ear as well, and a serious infection could also damage the sensitive nerve endings and bone structures present here. Allergies may also contribute to hearing loss for people who have Meniere’s disease. Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disease that typically affects one ear. This disease can cause pressure or pain in the ear, severe cases of dizziness or vertigo, hearing loss, and a ringing or roaring noise, also known as tinnitus.
If you do think your allergies are causing hearing problems, your best option is to visit either a hearing or allergy specialist to get treatment.
Allergy and Hearing Aids
So how do allergies affect you if wear an assistive hearing device?
Well for one swelling or fluid buildup can further lower your ability to hear. Often this leads to hearing aid wearers turning the volume on their hearing aids up even more to overcompensate. But if you aren’t careful you could further damage your hearing by being it too loud noise, especially if the fluid in your ears suddenly shifts or drains.
Second of all, allergens can actually clog or damage your hearing aids themselves. Dust, pollen, and hair can clog the microphone port or get into the battery compartment, which can lead to interference or damage. It’s always good practice to clean your hearing aids regularly to avoid these problems, especially during allergy season.
If you have questions about hearing loss or hearing aids, we are here to help! Please contact us today and schedule an appointment at one of our convenient Ohio hearing center locations: Bowling Green, Toledo, or Wauseon. The experts at Kenwood Hearing Center are here for you to help you with not only hearing loss but your overall hearing health.