Ear Allergies - A guide to Hearing Loss

Allergies are very common and are usually a result of an adverse reaction to a substance, food or medicine. An allergy can affect many areas of the body which includes the ears which impacts upon balance and hearing.

Earrings

The most common form of allergy involving the ears is due to metal earrings. Some people find that they are allergic to metal earrings which are why it is important to have earrings made from a good quality metal especially when you first have your ears pierced. So choose earrings made from gold, silver or platinum.

The usual format is to wear this earring for the first six weeks following the piercing and then swap to an earring of your own choice. But, some people find that they develop an allergy to their chosen earring once they have swapped from the original one. And this can develop at any time even after years of wearing a silver or platinum earring.

The first sign of an allergy is an itchy, sore ear which if left untreated will develop an infection and may close the piercing site (hole in your ear lobe). This type of allergy is specific to the ears but there are other types of allergies which occur in other parts of the body that also affect the ears. If you develop an allergy to a particular substance or food then this can manifest itself in a variety of ways which includes an ear infection. This can occur in any part of the ear and can be caused by a build up of fluid around the ear drum which upsets the balance of air pressure within the ear and affects both balance and hearing. The ear canal becomes itchy and sore and if scratched, will increase the risk of the infection spreading to other sections of the ear.

And, it may increase the risk of permanent ear damage.

Food allergy

Many people have an allergy to a certain food or foods. Allergies to nuts, wheat, eggs and milk are become increasingly common and these produce a severe and instant reaction which can be fatal if not treated right away.

There is also food intolerance and this differs from allergies in that it is a slower and milder form of reaction. Food intolerances affect the body in a variety of ways, which includes the ears, and symptoms include:

Tinnitus and ear infections both cause hearing loss.

However, research has shown a link between certain food allergies (i.e. wheat) and ear infections such as otitis externa and otitis media, especially in children. Children are particularly prone to ear infections which cause inflammation and discharge from the ear and affects their hearing as well.

Fortunately this is a temporary situation which returns to normal once the infection has cleared.

Glue ear can be another cause of ear infections in children and this also impairs their hearing. This and other similar subjects are discussed in greater detail in our children and hearing loss section.

If your child is allergic to cow’s milk then this can cause an ear infection. And this can re-occur each time your child continues to have milk. If you suspect this might be the case then it’s a good idea to have your child tested for this type of allergy.

Your GP may be able to advise you further about this plus there are specialist centres which undertake food allergy testing.

Skin allergies

Skin allergies such as eczema result in itchy, flaky skin on various parts of the body which includes the ears. It is very difficult to stop yourself scratching or picking at your ears if you get a flare up but try to avoid doing so.

The application of an ointment to the ears can soothe them and reduce any soreness and itching. But if your eczema is more severe then a prescription medicine may be needed.

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