No one can argue that the last year has been one of the wildest in the history of medicine. With new cases of COVID-19 popping up every day, the fear and uncertainty surrounding illnesses and how they are spread continues to fester.
Now, as we embark upon yet another flu season starting in October, there is a heightened sense of awareness around colds and viruses and how they are spread.
The Cold and Influenza Season
Many experts predict that this year’s flu season may result in over three times as many hospitalizations as a typical year. With a country that averages over 200,000 flu hospitalizations a year, this could profoundly affect the country’s medical infrastructure. This may put a further strain on packed hospitals throughout the country.
Surprisingly, last year’s influenza hospitalizations were at a historic low, as only 155 Americans were hospitalized from October 1st to January 30th. This is substantially less compared to 2019, where 8,633 Americans were hospitalized.
Last year, many experts predicted a double pandemic, with COVID-19 and influenza cases aligning to create mass hospitalizations during this time period. Many were surprised when the number of influenza hospitalizations dropped to a record low, while COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to surge.
Many predicted that the COVID-19 preventative measures like mask-wearing and social distancing positively affected flu cases. However, experts are now worried that these numbers will rebound with a laxer approach towards virus protection being taken by many.
A recent study conducted by the America Lung Associated stated that the average American can experience as many as four colds a year. This is especially heightened during flu season, as the colder fall and winter months lead to an increased chance of catching something.
Your Ears and the Flu
Usually, when most people are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, they feel some sort of blockage in their ears. This is because your sinuses and ears are interconnected. A problem with your sinuses often leads to a problem with your ears.
If you are experiencing this, the recommended action is to take a decongestant so that your head can adequately drain. Unfortunately, congestion can turn from an inconvenience into an ear infection in only a few hours. For this reason, if you experience any pain or unusual discharge in your ear, then you should consider seeking professional help.
Hearing loss can be common when you have a cold or flu. Congestion from the illness can build up in the ear, which will make it hard for the ear to work properly. Other symptoms from a cold can also include dizziness and tinnitus.
The most common type of hearing loss during a cold or the flu is conductive hearing loss. This occurs when the fluid in the middle ear makes it hard for the eardrum to vibrate and for sound waves to travel through the ear.
It is worth noting that fluid buildup can decrease your ability to hear by up to 24 decibels, making sound muffled or indistinct. This type of hearing loss is usually temporary, and your hearing will often return in few days to a few weeks. However, it is possible in some cases for it to take months for your hearing to return to pre-illness levels completely.
What Can You Do?
If you are experiencing pain with your cold or flu, it can be evidence of inflammation and infection. This could be a sign that your condition is worsening, potentially leading to a problem with your hearing. At this time, it is crucial to seek professional help for a prescription.
Getting antibiotics may clear up our condition and prevent damage to your hearing if you catch it soon enough. Ignoring this pain can often lead to scarring on the eardrum and even damage the cilia from inflammation.
While it is essential to keep track of your condition if you have a common cold or flu, a cold will generally only cause temporary issues with your hearing. An injury to your eardrum or cilia, however, can often result in permanent hearing loss. This, in turn, may even lead to other problems.
Many problems can arise from hearing loss, such as depression, dementia, anxiety, and a decline in the quality of your relationships. Also, from a financial aspect, hearing problems can cost a bundle in medical costs. In only ten years, untreated hearing loss can increase your healthcare expenses by 46%.
On top of this, hearing troubles can increase your risk of hospitalization by over 50%.
The bottom line is that cold and flu season can increase your risk of developing tinnitus and hearing loss. Because of this, it is vital to be aware of how these illnesses spread and being proactive about protecting yourself. Simply washing your hands can have a profound effect on your susceptibility to contracting one of these illnesses.