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Can allergies cause hearing loss?

With warmer winter patterns across the country and heavy spring rains, plants have more potential to produce pollen into the air to trigger allergy symptoms. Some allergy sufferers will experience runny noses and itchy eyes, but others may feel pressure in the ear, a ringing sensation in the ears or vertigo during this season.

hearing loss, allergies, causes of hearing loss, ear infectionsAllergies and hearing loss

When the immune system reacts to an allergen, it produces antibodies that release histamine. This is what is responsible for your sneezing, itchy nose and congestion. The histamine causes an increased amount of mucus production as well, which can create problems in your ears. In particular, the Eustachian tube, which is a drainage passage for the middle ear, can become clogged.

"Typically, allergic patients have complained of a symmetrical hearing loss and a sense of fullness or pressure," Dr. Michael Jones, of the Hearing Health Center told Medical News Today. "In most cases the hearing test shows a slight hearing loss and a tympanogram shows reduced mobility of the tympanic membrane. That means the middle ear has become inflamed."

Types of hearing issues

Fullness: During allergy season, there can be excess fluid in the ear that creates a pressured or clogged feeling, which can impact your ability to hear correctly. This is because the fluid presses against the eardrum to cause discomfort.

Conductive hearing loss:  Conductive hearing loss is curable, but it makes it temporarily difficult to hear faint noises and often creates a reduced sound level. This type of hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot properly flow through the ear and into the tiny bones of the middle ear. Having excess fluid or ear wax is a plays a major role in this type of hearing loss because sound cannot properly travel to the cochlea.

Allergies can also cause a fluctuating level of fluid in the ear, which can make you able to hear at some times while others can be difficult. Other common causes of conductive hearing loss include swimmer's ear, the presence of a foreign body or benign tumors.

Ear infections: It should come as no surprise that with allergies comes the risk of infections. As there is increased moisture in the ear from fluid, bacteria are able to thrive more easily and cause a middle ear infection. If you experience regular middle ear infections, there is a possibility it could lead to tinnitus or hearing loss.

Increased allergens can also clog the microphone ports in hearing aids. Replacing the covers of microphone ports is an easy fix, and you should also make sure to maintain cleanliness of your device. 

For people experiencing hearing loss or tinnitus during this season, it is likely that the symptoms will subside as allergy triggers dissipate. However, it is usually best to visit your audiologist to make sure that your issue is does not need long-term treatment.

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