Depending on where you’re located, all year can be allergy season. From pollen to pet dander, allergies can vary from a slight aggravation to a daily struggle that impacts your quality of life. The first and most common signs that you are dealing with allergies are usually a runny nose and itchy eyes.
But some will undergo advanced symptoms such as hearing loss, poor balance, and tinnitus. These symptoms are a side effect of increased pressure in your inner and middle ear.
Why do Allergies Impair Your Hearing?
When your body detects an environmental allergen it reacts by discharging a chemical called histamine. The common itchy eyes and runny nose are the outcomes of this release. One less common symptom is fluid build up in your inner and middle ear. The fluid blocks the allergen from getting further into your ear canal. The resulting pressure can cause issues with your equilibrium leading to a blocked ear, trouble hearing, and balance issues.
How to Manage This Allergy-Related Hearing Loss
There are many ways to manage the symptoms of allergies. Most people begin with over-the-counter products like Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra. Minor cases can be successfully treated within a couple of days and initial relief usually starts after the first dose. Extended use of these products is also safe. Other allergy medication can be used short term but aren’t suggested as a long term strategy because of their possible side effects, these medications include Sudafed, Afrin, and Benadryl.
There are also natural approaches that can be used by themselves or in combination with over-the-counter medications. Saline solutions or a Neti pot are some examples. In some cases, even a simple hot shower can lead to improvement, particularly when combined with a vapor tablet. Environmental changes, including routinely washing fabrics in hot water, using a damp cloth to minimize dust on surfaces, and running an air purifier can also significantly help. If you have pets and have trouble with pet dander, be sure to give your pets a bath frequently.
When Nothing Else Works
For some individuals over-the-counter and natural remedies won’t be enough. If you’ve tried these approaches over the course of a few weeks and you’re not having any relief it could be time to get professional help. An allergist will determine if you are a good candidate for allergy shots. These shots will be delivered in slowly increasing doses once a week for up to six months before switching to a monthly shot. These shots work by releasing a small bit of allergen into your system which allows your body to learn how to deal with it. Though it only takes about eight months for patients to experience some relief, this therapy will require a long term commitment of as much as five years.
If none of the above approaches deliver relief, and you’ve made sure the pressure in your ears isn’t caused by an ear infection, then it is time to get your hearing checked.