Unbeknownst to many, seasonal allergies prey on sufferers’ hearing as well as their eyes and sinuses.
The body’s response to allergens including pollen, grass, fur and some drugs includes the production of antibodies. These antibodies release histamine, which can be overly aggressive and cause allergic reactions, including runny nose, itchy eyes, and congestion in the sinuses and ears. It can even lead to temporary hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing, whistling or humming in the ears).
Harbor Audiology & Hearing Services in the Seattle and Tacoma, Washington metropolitan areas reminds you that allergic reactions can create issues for the outer, middle and inner ear.
- Outer ear: The ear canal may appear red or become increasingly itchy.
- Middle ear: Your hearing can be impacted by the swelling of the Eustachian tube, which releases pressure in the ear. When this area fills with mucus, sounds may seem muffled. It may also cause a feeling of fullness in the ears, a condition known as conductive hearing loss.
- Inner ear: Allergic reactions in the inner ear may cause vertigo (dizziness), tinnitus and ear pressure. These reactions have been known to cause Meniere’s disease, a condition that includes all of these symptoms.
Research has shown that allergy season has been extended in some locations, with some scientists claiming global warming and pollution is allowing troublesome weeds and pollen producers to ramp it up. More carbon monoxide in the atmosphere is producing more pollen, scientists say.
Sometimes, the body’s immune system will respond to an allergen by attacking the inner ear. This is known as autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED). This condition can damage the hearing nerve, which can cause rapid, progressively worsening hearing loss. Although the cause is unknown, symptoms of AIED include vertigo, changes in hearing and Meniere’s disease.
Fortunately, most sufferers of season allergies can find relief in over-the-counter drugs including decongestants and antihistamines. These symptoms usually subside at the conclusion of the allergy season.