Sinusitis and Hearing Loss

  Sinusitis is one of the most common health conditions today. While it is not considered a life-threatening issue, it can be extremely uncomfortable with a range of pains in various parts of the body. In most cases, the symptoms of sinusitis clear without medication. However, in a few cases, the symptoms persist, and the doctor may prescribe a range of treatment options depending on the cause and duration of the symptoms.

Sinus simply refers to an air-filled cavity within a tissue or a bone. Sinuses are especially abundant in the skull bone. There are several cavities around the face, forming the different types of sinus. These cavities are often referred to as nasal sinuses. Sinusitis often refers to infected nasal sinuses.

Medically referred to as rhinosinusitis, this condition simply means that there is inflammation of the sinus lining. Due to a variety of reasons, the sinus lining can become irritated or swollen, or may have a bacterial, fungal or viral infection. When this happens, it triggers a variety of reactions in the body, some of which results in hearing loss.

Now, here is the thing; hearing loss caused by sinusitis is temporary. Once the condition has been resolved, the hearing is restored. In some cases, muffled voices are heard instead of the usual clear sounds. This may be an indication of a fluid-filled inner ear.

How Sinusitis Causes Performance Loss

Inflamed or infected sinuses tend to be congested and clogged. This congestion can, in turn, cause swelling and blockage to the Eustachian tubes. The eustachian tubes are small tubes that connect the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat and are essential in equalizing pressure between the middle ear and the atmosphere. It is also used to drain unwanted substances from the inner ear. 

If eustachian tubes are affected or blocked, they do not perform their functions, leading to a collection of substances in the middle ear. When this happens, you are likely to perceive muffled sounds or suffer from temporary hearing loss. If there is any bacterial or fungal infection involved, especially in the ear due to the trapped fluid, medical attention is advisable to prevent hearing loss and ruptured eardrum.

What Is Sinusitis?

Sinusitis is inflammation or infection of the paranasal sinuses. There are 4 types of sinuses in the skull bone. Any of these cavities can be infected by a variety of irritants, thereby resulting in a myriad of symptoms.

• Maxillary sinuses are located under the eyes, on either side of the nose’s bridge. when infected, they cause headache, toothache as well as pain just below the eyes and all over the cheeks

• Ethmoid sinuses are located between the eyes. Infection in these cavities cause splitting headaches felt over the forehead, tearing as well as pain between and behind the eyes

• Frontal sinuses are located above the eyes, behind the forehead and the eyebrows. when infected, you are likely to get headaches, especially over the forehead

• Sphenoid sinuses are located behind the eyes. Sphenoid sinusitis causes undefined pain in a manner that you cannot really tell which part of the area is aching. In most cases, however, people report feeling an ache that seems to be on the front or back of the head.

Other than headaches, other symptoms of sinusitis include coloured nasal discharge, nasal congestion or a feeling of stuffiness, coughing, fatigue, fever and bad breath. Bad breath occurs when there is continuous postnasal drip (mucus drainage at the back of the throat). These dripping substances cause throat irritation, coughing and bad breath. Toothache and face tenderness are also some of the symptoms of nasal cavity inflammation or infection. It is common to feel facial pressure or pain, and even experience loss of the sense of smell

Types of sinusitis

There are 4 main types of sinusitis. This classification is mainly based on the duration of the infection.

• Acute sinusitis lasts about 4 weeks

• Subacute sinusitis can occur for more than 4 weeks and last up to 12 weeks

• Chronic sinusitis lasts for more than 12 weeks. In some cases, it has been known to last several months

• Recurrent sinusitis is a condition that reoccurs and can do so several times a year

Acute sinusitis is the most common sinus conditions. It often starts as a normal cold, which is easy to dismiss. It is often characterized by a runny and stuffy nose as well as facial pain and pressure.  An affected person may also experience fever, fatigue, bad breath and dental pains. If left unchecked, it can turn into a bacterial infection. If you get thick, coloured nasal discharge, usually green or yellow in colour, chances are that you may be suffering from acute sinusitis.

Chronic sinusitis is also pretty common. It is often characterized by a feeling of fullness or congestion in the face, pus in the nasal cavity, runny nose with discoloured discharge and nasal blockage. It is also common to feel constantly fatigued, experience unending headaches, tooth pain and bad breath. At this stage, medical attention is necessary to alleviate the symptoms as well as treat the illness.

What Causes Sinusitis?

There are various reasons why sinusitis occurs. While there is an endless list of risk factors, the infection almost always results from the fluid that is trapped in the cavities which fuel the growth of germs. Some of the most common causes of inflammation in the sinuses include the following.

• Pollutants and irritants cause swelling and inflammation, which can trigger catarrh

• Viruses, which are responsible for more than 90% of the cases in adults

• Bacterial infections cause sinusitis in 1 out of 10 people

• Fungi, usually present in the air, can cause an allergenic reaction in the nasal cavity. In rare cases, fungi can invade the cavities, thereby causing chronic indolent sinusitis

There are countless risk factors that are associated with sinusitis, especially if it is the kind that won’t go away. These risk factors can be unique from one person to another. However, most people who have suffered from sinusitis have admitted to being familiar with at least one or two of these risk factors. These risk factors include the following.

• Respiratory tract infections top this list. The most common infection being common cold

• Prevailing illness or medication that results into a weakened immunity, leaving the body vulnerable to bacterial, fungal or viral infections

• Allergic reactions to common irritants such as hair, dust, pollen, smoke among other substances

• Nasal polyps which are small growths that occur in the nasal passage, and can cause irritation

• Conditions such as cystic fibrosis which cause  buildup of thick mucus on membrane linings and in the lungs  

• Current dental diseases such as tooth abscess that is untreated 

• Overexposure to high concentration of germ and irritants such as air travel

• Structural issues such as deviated septum can trigger sinusitis

If you look at your nose, you will notice that it looks like it has been divided into two nostrils. The cartilage and bone that helps sustain this separation are referred to as septum. If the septum has any issues such as bending, is injured or has growth, it can lead to inflammation and recurrent infections.

Sinusitis Diagnosis

If you have experienced several of the aforementioned symptoms for more than a few days, you may need to visit a doctor. The medical practitioner will ask you a few questions about your symptoms so as to guide on which diagnosis method to use. 

Diagnosis may start with a physical exam. Your doctor may tap around the face to determine pressure and tenderness, especially against cheeks and head. The doctor may also look inside the nose to check for signs of inflammation. The findings of the physical tests will determine whether or not advance tests will be carried out.

If you are suffering from a chronic infection, the doctor may recommend imaging tests. These tests look into the sinuses and nasal passages to check for abnormalities. The results of these tests will show whether there are any blockages or abnormalities such as polyps in the nasal passages.

Advanced imaging tests that may be carried out include CT scans and MRI. A CT scan gives a 3-D image of the sinuses. On the other hand, MRI will create an image of the internal structure by the help of strong magnets. Either of these tests will reveal the condition of the sinuses and any abnormality affecting its functionality. 

Nasal endoscopy can also be used to look at the nasal passages. This is the use of a lighted flexible tube that goes through the nose. It gives visuals of the passages and is as detailed as need be. The doctor can choose whether or not to use a local anaesthetic. In most cases, this procedure is not painful at all, just uncomfortable. During this procedure, samples can be taken and culture-tested for infection.

Skin allergy tests can also be done to identify irritants that may be triggering allergic reactions. A blood test can also be done to check for any illnesses that could be causing low immunity.

Sinusitis Treatment options

The treatment option prescribed often depends on the severity of the sinusitis. The doctor can make varied recommendations depending on the test results. While some people can take antibiotics and be well, others will be given home remedies to try out while others may require surgery. Let’s look at some of the most common treatment options today.

1. Home remedies

These remedies are used on recurrent mild sinusitis. They offer relief so that you do not need to go to the doctor. Some of these remedies are meant to boost proper drainage as well as reduce pain. Some of these remedies include the following.

• A warm compress applied gently on affected areas to relieve discomfort and swelling.

• Nasal irrigation rinses out the nasal passages with saline solution thereby dissolving the blockage

• Steam inhalation offers relief from congestion. Essential oils such as eucalyptus or menthol can be added to the water so as to help unblock the sinuses. Be cautious so as not to apply any essential oil directly or swallow.

• Painkillers, hydration and rest do wonders, not only will you be free of pain and fever, you will also gain some energy to beat the feeling of fatigue and avoid the ills of overexertion.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about these remedies. The doctor will examine you and recommend to you the appropriate home remedy.

2. Medication

Depending on the severity of the sinusitis, your doctor can recommend decongestants, antihistamines, nasal sprays and antibiotics. Antibiotics are best used when a bacterial infection has been confirmed. 

3. Surgery

If the causes of the sinusitis are beyond medication, surgery can be done. Issues such as deviated septum and nasal polyps may need surgery to correct. 

How to Prevent Sinus Infections

Yes, there is a role you can play to avoid getting sick. For starters, you can get an annual flu shot. It is also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to keep your immunity strong. Be sure to wash your hands regularly and stay away from common irritants such as chemicals, smoke and pollen among other allergens.

What Happens If Sinusitis Is Left Untreated?

Majority of the sinusitis issues clear by themselves within a few days. If not, most are cleared by antibiotics. If you have chronic sinusitis that is not properly treated, it may cause serious health issues in the long run. Here are some complications of non-allergic rhinitis that may arise from untreated sinusitis.

• Chronic sinusitis can lead to middle ear infection, which in turn can cause temporary deafness

• Postnasal drip is a seriously embarrassing consequence as it causes constant bad breath, coughing and sore throat

• Pus filled infections-packed abscess in the sinuses

• Meningitis can occur if the infections reach the brain

• Orbit cellulitis is an infection that affects the eye tissues while osteomyelitis is a bone infection

While the common occurrence is sinusitis that clears within a short while, sinusitis can linger for a while. It is also possible to conclusively address the issue only for it to recur after a while. While sinusitis itself is not a serious condition, it can sometimes lead to complications, some of which can be fatal. Therefore, always manage the condition as per the doctor’s recommendations to avoid these serious complications.

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