All year is allergy season in some locations. From pet dander to pollen, allergies can vary from a minor annoyance to a daily struggle that affects your quality of life. Runny nose and itchy eyes are the symptoms people are most familiar with and can be the first indication that you’re suffering from allergies.
But some will undergo enhanced symptoms such as loss of hearing, poor balance, and tinnitus. Added pressure in the inner and middle ear are responsible for these symptoms.
Why is Your Hearing Affected by Allergies?
When your body detects an environmental allergen it reacts by discharging a chemical called histamine. This release results in the familiar itchy eye symptoms and sniffles of allergies. Fluid accumulation in the inner ear is a less known symptom. This is how your body stops the allergen from getting deeper into your ear canal. The resulting pressure can cause problems with your equilibrium leading to a blocked ear, trouble hearing, and balance issues.
How to Manage This Allergy-Related Hearing Loss
Allergies can be treated in several different ways. Over-the-counter medications such as Zyrtec, Claritin, and Allegra are generally the first options. These medicines are used to manage minor conditions and can start working in as little as one dose with the maximum effect appearing after a few days of use. Extended use of these medicines is also safe. Other allergy medication can be used temporarily but aren’t suggested as a long term strategy because of their potential side effects, these medications include Sudafed, Afrin, and Benadryl.
There are also natural solutions that can be used by themselves or in combination with over-the-counter medications. Saline solutions or a Neti pot are some examples. In certain situations, even a simple hot shower can lead to improvement, particularly when paired with a vapor tablet. Environmental changes, like routinely washing fabrics in hot water, using a damp cloth to minimize dust on surfaces, and using an air purifier can also significantly help. If you have pets and have trouble with pet dander, make sure you bathe your pet frequently.
When Nothing Else Works
For some people over-the-counter and natural treatments won’t be sufficient. If you’ve tried these approaches over the course of a few weeks and you aren’t having any relief it may be time to get professional advice. An allergist will decide 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 shot once a month. Small amounts of the allergen will be introduced into your system allowing your body to gradually learn how to manage it. Although it only takes about eight months for patients to experience some relief, this treatment will require a long term commitment of as much as five years.
If you still have pressure in your ears and none of these strategies help, it’s time to have a hearing test.