Influenza and Hearing Loss

Influenza

Influenza, or commonly known as flu, is a respiratory illness that is caused by a virus. Flu is highly contagious and very common all around the world, it is usually spread from an infected person to a healthy person by the coughs and sneezes.

The Ear, Hearing and Influenza

Blocked Eustachian Tube, trapped fluid, imbalanced pressure, ear drum
Fig 1: Eustachian Tube
When suffering with influenza many people feel that their hearing is impaired/affected. To most people, this is felt as congested sensation (sound appeared to be muffled) or a general dullness of sounds.

Congestion can block Eustachian tubes (a small pressure vent that connects behind your eardrum to the back of the throat) which creates a temporary hearing loss. This hearing loss is due to build-up of pressure in the middle ear which is cause by blockage of Eustachian tube. Sometime due to blockage of Eustachian tubes, fluid may also enter the middle ear, which is normally filled with air.

Prevention

Generally, the hearing loss due to influenza is reversed and the hearing returns to normal once the congestion is gone. Sometime the influenza virus can itself affect the hearing organs directly which can cause a sudden hearing loss. This deafness can be permanent as it may damage the hearing organ permanently. This kind of hearing loss may be reversed if a prompt treatment is provided (ideally within 2 days). However, this kind of hearing is hard to diagnose as it can be mistaken for a hearing loss due to congestion from a cold or allergies.