Allergies and Hearing Loss

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Did you know that allergies can affect your hearing? If you are hearing impaired, it’s important to understand what happens to your ears and your hearing when your body is having an allergic reaction.

An allergy is caused by your immune system defending your body against a substance that otherwise does not cause problems for most people. Seasonal allergies are most commonly caused by different types of mold and pollen, and appear at different times of the year, not just spring or fall. Other allergic reactions can be caused by plants, bee stings, insect bites, foods, pet dander, dust, and certain medications. If you are allergic to one or more of these things, you’re probably already quite familiar with the most common allergy symptoms:

  • Hives and skin rash
  • Itching
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Scratchy throat
  • Nasal congestion

Your outer, middle, and inner ear can all react to direct contact with allergens. Symptoms may include ear fullness or pressure, a crackling sound without fluid, tinnitus, or dizziness. When the outer ear and ear canal begin to itch or swell, it’s usually a good clue that you’re having an allergic reaction. A related condition that frequently occurs in the summer is otitis externa, also known as Swimmer’s ear. This is typically caused by water that remains in the ear after swimming, which creates a moist environment that encourages bacteria or fungi growth.

Histamine Causes Mucus Production

During an allergic reaction, your immune system releases histamine into your blood stream. One way your body reacts to histamine is to produce mucus in the middle ear. This extra mucus can cause a condition known as “conductive hearing loss,” preventing sound from getting through the outer ear to the little bones in the middle ear. Although you may be very uncomfortable, the condition and the hearing loss are usually short lived.

What to Do and What Not to Do During an Allergic Reaction

Sometimes, environments and substances that cause allergic reactions are hard to avoid. If you do have an allergic reaction, don’t try to relieve the itching by scratching or inserting anything into your ear. In mild cases, you can try an over-the-counter antihistamine. If you’re in pain and you can’t resist the urge to scratch and poke, or if you have more severe symptoms, contact your physician or hearing care professional. They’ll be able to provide appropriate treatment options and test your hearing, if necessary.

Remember, conductive hearing loss due to allergies is temporary. With or without the appropriate medication, once the symptoms subside, you should start feeling better and your hearing should improve as well.

Allergy Remedies Can Affect Hearing Aids, Too

Prescription ear drops and ointments used to treat irritated or infected ears can clog your hearing aid ports. Replacing your hearing aid speaker wax guards or microphone covers is easy and may lead to an immediate improvement. Cleaning your hearing aids daily by wiping them down with a simple cloth, or using a brush for more stubborn debris, will help keep your hearing aids clean and working properly, in and out of allergy season.

 

References:

Overholt J. Allergies and the ear. Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Center blog. http://www.allergyasc.com/blog/allergies-and-the-ear/. Published October 16, 2008. Accessed June 26, 2018.

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