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How does nasal congestion impair my hearing?

Diana K. Blythe, MD
Pediatrics

Nasal congestion can impair your hearing if it causes your eustachian tubes to be blocked. Whether the congestion is caused by allergies or a cold, the skin gets swollen and the eustachian tubes cannot drain the fluid from the middle ear into the back of your throat.

If the middle ear fluid cannot drain, the eardrum does not vibrate as effectively when hit by sound waves. When the eardrum does not vibrate effectively, the sound is muffled.

 

When you blow your nose too hard with a cold or sinusitis, this can close the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the nose and the outside, resulting in pain and pressure. In fact, any nasal congestion or sinus swelling can do this. A growth in the back of the nose can press on this opening causing pain. Inhaled toxins can cause inflammation that leads to pain and hearing loss.
Here’s how it works. In order to hear, we have an eardrum that vibrates with the sound. The three tiny bones located in the middle ear move back and forth in order to transmit the sound to the inner ear where the nerves are. If the eardrum and the bones are to move properly, the middle ear space has to have a pressure equal to that of the air outside the ear. But if you change altitude, the pressure outside changes, and you have to adjust the middle ear pressure. This is done with the eustachian tube. When this tube is blocked, you may not be aware that your hearing is impaired. In fact, many people think their ears are “plugged,” when they actually have hearing loss. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.