Local hearing clinics in Chicago say this is the worst spring in several years for allergy-related hearing problems. Dr. Michael Jones, of the Hearing Health Center (HHC) said he is seeing a large number of patients each week with hearing problems caused by seasonal allergies.
Experts say this season is especially bad for allergies because late snowfalls, plus the particularly wet months of April and May have brought about excess moisture.
High pollen levels do not only cause problems in the nose and eyes, but also commonly trigger an accumulation of fluid and wax in the middle ear, which also swells, blocking off the Eustachian tubes, resulting in poor hearing.
Dr. Jones said:
"Typically, allergic patients have complained of a symmetrical hearing loss and a sense of fullness or pressure. In most cases the hearing test shows a slight hearing loss and a tympanogram shows reduced mobility of the tympanic membrane. That means the middle ear has become inflamed."As allergies subside so do hearing problems, Dr. Jones explained. In most cases, if the audiologist cannot identify any other underlying problem, the patient is advised to check with an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist to make sure. OTC (over-the-counter) antihistamines and decongestants may provide some temporary relief.
Seasonal hearing problems caused by allergies have become so common that some doctors are treating patients with immunotherapy, which was shown in one 1992 study to improve the hearing of 60% of patients with Meniere's Disease (a condition with vertigo, tinnitus and progressive deafness).
Individuals who experience hearing loss, even if they believe it is caused by a seasonal allergy, should get it checked by a doctor. The doctor can than rule out any other serious problem, and help alleviate the symptoms. Continuous pressure in the middle ear can cause permanent hearing loss. If you experience ringing in the ears (tinnitus) or vertigo (dizziness, or a feeling that things are dizzily turning around you), see your doctor.
A significant proportion of Dr. Jones' current visitors are baby boomers with borderline hearing problems. They complain they cannot clearly hear what people are saying. In some cases, new invisible long-term hearing devices can help.
50% of the US population is affected by some kind of allergy, according to the Hearing Health Center, and at least 12% are affected by hearing loss.
Founder of the Hearing Health Center, Dr. Ronna Fisher Au.D., FAAA, said:
"People take it for granted that allergies cause sneezing in the nose and itching in the eyes. Yet they seem surprised to learn allergies inevitably affect their ears as well."
Source: Hearing Health Center
Written by Christian Nordqvist