Springtime has returned… and so have seasonal allergies.
After a long 6 more weeks of winter (thanks a lot, Punxsutawney Phil), Spring is finally here! The bright yellow daffodils are in full bloom, trees are regrowing their green leaves, and daylight savings time will gift us an extra hour of daylight in the evenings.
However, with all the beautiful parts of Spring come the not-so-beautiful parts… We’re talking about seasonal allergies. If you’re unlucky enough to suffer from seasonal allergies, you’re not alone! As many as 60 million people experience seasonal allergies in the US every year. But, have you ever wondered if seasonal allergies impact your hearing?
As if allergies weren’t uncomfortable enough, with runny noses and itchy eyes galore, seasonal allergies do, in fact, affect your hearing and can cause short and long-term hearing loss or even tinnitus.
How do seasonal allergies affect your hearing?
Before we dive into the specifics of how allergies can impact your hearing, we need to better understand what in the world allergies even are and how they cause those lovely symptoms that allergy sufferers know all too well.
An allergy is when your body perceives something as a threat to your immune system and creates antibodies to protect itself. These antibodies release something called histamine, which is the culprit behind the itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and congestion.
So how does this impact your ears? Well, the excess histamine in your system also causes an increased production of mucus, which can block the Eustachian tube, the drainage passage within your middle ear. This blockage can cause pressure or make your ear feel clogged. You may have experienced this same sensation the last time you were on an airplane as you climbed in altitude or the last time you had a cold or the flu.
The extra fluid in the Eustachian tube can also make it harder for sound waves to travel through the ear canal to the cochlea where sound vibrations are translated to the brain to perceive words or noise, leading to temporary hearing loss.
But it doesn’t stop there. The extra fluid in your ear can also lead to ear infections, impact your balance, or cause or worsen tinnitus, which is a consistent ringing in your ears.
Can allergy symptoms impact your hearing aids?
Just as allergies can affect individuals with excellent hearing, they can also affect those that already experience hearing loss, especially hearing aid wearers.
The most obvious impact on hearing aid wearers is that Springtime allergens, namely pollen, can clog the microphone ports on your hearing aids, which can impact their effectiveness and functionality. Thus, it’s incredibly important to clean your hearing aids frequently to ensure pollen isn’t causing any blockage.
If you already have some level of hearing difficulty, the excess fluid in your middle ear can cause a different kind of hearing loss, called conductive hearing loss, which can affect the way your hearing aids work and make any blockages even worse. To combat this, be sure you don’t turn up the volume, as the higher volume can damage your ears further as fluid clears out or shifts within your ear, and if discomfort or blockage continues, schedule an appointment with a hearing care specialist.
Hearing health tips during allergy season
So, what can allergy sufferers do to take care of their ears during allergy season? Luckily, there are a few easy ways to prioritize hearing health this Spring.
The first way is to simply treat your seasonal allergies! You can do this by taking an over-the-counter antihistamine medication, like Claritin, Allegra, or Zyrtec. If you’re not a fan of medication or medication just isn’t enough to manage your symptoms, there are a few natural remedies you can try, as well, such as a warm compress or a Neti Pot.
While most hearing loss experienced as a result of allergies is temporary, it never hurts to get your hearing checked by a professional to ensure no damage occurs and there is no deeper hearing loss present. Hearing care providers, like our Beltone Tristate team, can even help manage those ear-related allergy symptoms to help you get through allergy season, too.
Get ahead of allergy season and enjoy Springtime to the fullest! Schedule an appointment with your local Beltone Tristate practice, and let our hearing care providers help.