The worst part about getting a sinus infection could be that you can feel it coming from a mile away. The pressure around your nose starts to build. Your head gets a little achy and it gets hard to think. Your nose gets a little runny. And you know–as sure as the sun rises in the morning–that tomorrow you’re going to miserable.
Sinus infections can have a myriad of causes, though they’re usually related to fluid build-up in your sinus cavities. That’s why a short cold can maliciously turn into a lengthy sinus infection. Because your ears, nose, and throat are all connected, a sinus infection can have major implications for your hearing–both in the short term and the long term.
Sinus infections and plugged ears
Anyone who has endured the ordeal of a sinus infection (seriously, they aren’t fun) knows the uncomfortable feeling of pressure. There’s too much fluid in your sinuses, not enough places for it to go, and it all gets clogged up in there. It’s painful, and it can lead to a “stuffed” sensation throughout your head.
This is, in part, what leads to that “plugged” feeling you get in your ears when you have a sinus infection. All that fluid, with nowhere else to go, starts to leak into your Eustachian tubes, which run from your middle ear back to your nose and throat. In addition to the swelling and inflammation that your infection has already caused, you could find yourself experiencing hearing difficulties in short order.
In most cases, your hearing will return to normal as your sinus infection clears up. That’s when the fluid will (thank goodness) start to diminish and the inflammation will ease off. How treatable your sinus infection is usually depends on the type of infection (antibiotics will work on bacterial infection, for example, but not with a viral infection).
It’s usually only a matter of time before a sinus infection clears
So, you’re laying in bed with your head between twelve pillows and assuming that, in a few days or, well, twenty days at most, your hearing will come back. At least the end is in sight. Usually.
But not if you suffer from chronic or repeated sinus infections. Unless you’ve been previously cursed with a never-ending sinus infection, you probably were not aware that chronic sinus infections were even a thing. But they are! Most people are considered to have a chronic sinus infection if symptoms linger for a significant amount of time or if the symptoms recur on a regular basis.
If a one-off sinus infection can cause temporary havoc with your hearing, what will a chronic sinus infection do? Well, nothing good, as it turns out.
Chronic sinus infections and permanent damage to your hearing
Chronic sinus infections can lead to permanent damage to your hearing. Long-term inflammation, essentially, isn’t good for any part of your body, and your ears are no exception. The longer your sinus infection goes on, the more at risk you become for permanent hearing loss.
When your ears are permanently damaged by a sinus infection, your hearing will not come back once your sinus infection symptoms abate–or, at least, it won’t come back quite as strongly. In many instances, if you start experiencing tinnitus during a sinus infection–especially if that tinnitus becomes quite persistent–a trip to your hearing specialist just might be warranted.
That tinnitus could be an early warning sign. And if remedies aren’t sought, that tinnitus–or hearing loss–could become permanent.
How to prevent sinus infection-related hearing loss
There are a couple of ways to address possible long-term damage that might be caused by chronic sinus infections. First and foremost, you should seek out the advice of a hearing specialist if you’re suffering from tinnitus or hearing loss (for any reason, really, but especially due to sinus infections in this case).
Second, be sure to do all you can to prevent sinus infections in the first place. Get plenty of rest. Get tested for allergies (as allergies can indirectly lead to repeated sinus infections). Make sure your airways, nose, and throat, are all clear.
If you have concerns–or if you’ve been prone to sinus infections in the past–it’s worth raising the topic with your hearing specialist. In some cases where you’ve noticed long-term hearing loss, hearing aids can often help you compensate in a meaningful way (so you can still do all the things you used to do). Sinus infections can have a big impact on your hearing health, so they’re important to take seriously–not that sinus infections are all that easy to ignore.