Sinus infections and the sensation of blocked sinuses are nothing short of annoying. Sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, can cause a range of symptoms including headaches, fever, fatigue, cough, tooth pain, and facial pain. Sinus infections also affect your ears — and your hearing.
In this post, nasal and sinus specialist Dr. Conrad McCutcheon explores the connection between sinus infections and hearing loss. We treat both conditions here at Memorial Village ENT in Houston, Texas.
What is sinusitis?
Sinusitis is an infection or inflammation of your sinuses — cavities, or air pockets, inside the bones near your eyes and nose. Sinusitis can be chronic (lasting more than 12 weeks), subchronic (lasting 4-12 weeks), or acute (lasting 4 weeks or less). All three types of sinusitis share these symptoms:
- Postnasal drip and coughing
- Congestion and stuffiness
- Runny, drippy nose
- Facial pain, including pain that radiates to the jaw and teeth
Surprisingly, sinusitis can contribute to temporary hearing loss, but the ability to hear usually restores itself once an acute infection clears and fluid drains from your ears.
However, the hearing loss caused by chronic sinusitis may become permanent when complicated by recurrent ear infections. A recent study showed a link between sensorineural hearing loss and chronic sinusitis when the inner and outer ear hair cells are damaged.
Connecting sinus infections with hearing loss
To understand the connection between sinus infections and hearing loss, it’s important to remember that your ears and nose are connected. As a result, sinus infections can result in a swollen Eustachian tube, which connects your throat to your middle ear and is often dubbed “the pressure gauge” of your inner ear.
Your Eustachian tube keeps the pressure at the right level and helps drain fluid from your ears. As this tube swells, fluids block your middle ear, causing pressure to build up in your eardrum. This causes pain as well as hearing loss. You may notice pressure in your ears as well as clogged, muffled sounds — like you’re listening to people talk through a thick wall.
Is hearing loss permanent?
If you have acute sinusitis, your hearing generally returns after the infection clears and the buildup of fluid exits your eardrum. However, if the fluid doesn’t exit your ear (such as in prolonged or chronic infections), it can contribute to long-term hearing loss.
What you can do to prevent hearing loss
Your first course of action to prevent hearing loss associated with sinus infections is to target the sinus infection. Dr. McCutcheon treats sinus infections on an individual basis, taking into account what type of sinus infection you have. Your treatment plan may include:
- Medications, including antibiotics, steroids, and anti-inflammatory medication
- Saline nasal spray
If you’re struggling with chronic sinusitis and conservative treatments aren’t enough to alleviate your symptoms, balloon sinuplasty may be right for you.
With the right treatment, you can stop a bacterial infection in its tracks, and your hearing should improve shortly thereafter.
Don’t let an untreated sinus infection compromise your hearing. Dr. McCutcheon applies his experience with sinus infections and hearing loss to ensure you a speedy recovery. Schedule an appointment at Memorial Village ENT by calling 281-822-3777 or by requesting an appointment online today.