Q: I just took my twin daughters who are 8 years old to see an ear specialist because they keep sniffing with watery eyes and are having problems hearing me. The doctor told me that allergies are causing the symptoms. Could this really be true?
A: Actually, this may be quite true. This is the time of year when we see seasonal allergies, which can prevent the Eustachian tube from draining properly, potentially causing hearing loss. In order to be certain there’s a hearing loss and determine what type it is, an audiogram, which is a hearing test, should be performed.
The middle ear reacts to an allergic reaction by developing fluid, which can remain in the middle ear space for days, weeks, or even months, so along with the audiogram, a tympanogram is usually performed to determine whether there is a fluid buildup in the middle ear cavity behind the eardrum (otherwise known as the tympanic membrane).
This disorder is known as a conductive hearing loss. It is usually treated with antihistamines and occasionally steroids. In rare cases, a small incision is made in the eardrum to evacuate the fluid.
If the inner ear, also known as the cochlea, is affected by allergies, it also may accumulate excessive fluid, a condition referred to as endolymphatic hydrops. This may in turn develop into a sensorineural hearing loss along with a sensation of fullness, pressure, and often vertigo. This needs to be taken seriously, and quick medical attention is suggested.
The audiogram at this point is quite important to rule out other factors, such as a sudden hearing loss, which also could be caused by viral infection, tumor, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and chronic ear infections. We would encourage a visit to an audiologist and/or ear specialist as quickly as possible.
So yes, it’s true allergies can be causing your daughters’ difficulties, but a visit to the doctor may lead to better hearing health.
Randa Mansour-Shousher, AuD, CCC-A, is a Doctor of Audiology with Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic, located at 1125 Hospital Dr., Suite 50 in Toledo (419-383-4012) and 1601 Brigham Dr., Suite 160 in Perrysburg (419-873-4327).