Is tinnitus during pregnancy driving you up the wall? Pregnancy hormones can cause or make tinnitus worse. Here’s how to help deal with ringing in your ears when you’re pregnant.
Your lunch out with friends today became a battle to hear and understand over the persistent ringing in your ears. Your evening snuggled up on the couch with a good book was interrupted by that agonizing tone. Even getting a good night’s sleep has become dependent on whether you can get the white noise maker loud enough to drown it out.
Is it just you? Or does everyone get this ringing in the ears while pregnant?
Studies show that as many as 33% of pregnant woman suffer from tinnitus compared to only 10% of non-pregnant women. For some, the onset is sudden. It’s over after the pregnancy. For others, the symptoms persist long after. 2/3 of tinnitus sufferers who become pregnant state that the tinnitus got so much worse.
Let’s explore why so many women get tinnitus during pregnancy and what you can do to find relief.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a symptom caused by an underlying condition. Those with tinnitus will experience sounds superimposed over the sounds in their environment. The symptoms can be very distracting and are often constant. They make conversation, working, relaxing and sleeping difficult.
They can increase anxiety levels and even contribute to depression.
People with tinnitus may hear:
- Ringing (common during pregnancy)
- Thumping (very common during pregnancy)
- Or other sounds
You may be wondering how someone could hear these things if they’re not “really there.” Tinnitus is believed to not purely be a function of the ears but also the brain that may be generating the strange and persistent sounds.
Most tinnitus cannot be seen or heard by any professionals or their medical equipment. But it’s very real to those experiencing it as you already know.
Pregnancy and Pulsatile Tinnitus
Pulsatile tinnitus is a very common form of tinnitus during pregnancy. This is when your ears become acutely aware of the blood moving through the vessels around your ears. You can hear it with each beat of your heart in a thumping sound.
This can also be a sign of elevated blood pressure and possibly preeclampsia which can be very serious. For this reason, you should always share with your doctor that you’re having a ringing in ears while pregnant and what it sounds like.
Why Might Tinnitus During Pregnancy Be Triggered
Pregnancy is a perfect storm of factors that can lead to tinnitus.
Congestion Interfering with Hearing
Congestion is a common side effect during pregnancy. It can make your ears feel stuffy and full. That’s your Eustachian tubes filling up with fluid. This excess phlegm and fluid can impact how sound moves through the ear canal.
Pregnancy Hormones and Changes in Your Hearing
Hormones are primarily regulated in the hypothalamus, a smaller part of your brain. During pregnancy, the hypothalamus works overtime. It communicates with your body regarding how much hormone to produce and when to stop production.
Hormone changes can lead to intense emotion, anxiety, fatigue and even depression. These are well-known influencers of the severity of ringing in ears while pregnant.
In addition to pregnancy, UK studies have shown that women are more likely to develop tinnitus during menopause. They might also have it while receiving hormone replacement therapy (HTR) or as a symptom of PMS.
Each of these demonstrates a hormonal link.
Pregnancy Causes Changes in Blood Pressure
Elevated blood pressure can cause temporary ringing in ears while pregnant that can become permanent. Blood isn’t flowing freely through the vessels around your ears.
Increased Environmental Awareness
This survival mechanism may go back to the days of the prehistoric humans or before. When you’re pregnant, your senses are often hyper-sensitive. Touch and hearing are often more pronounced.
You may have always had tinnitus, and only became aware of it because the sound got louder.
Antidepressants During Pregnancy or After Pregnancy
If pre- or post-partum depression is severe, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants. Tinnitus is a known side effect of some of these drugs.
Tinnitus most often first appears in people who are under significant stress. Pregnancy can be a very stressful time, both emotionally and physically. The body is changing. It’s producing excess hormones as it tries to keep up. Stress has been shown to make tinnitus worse. If this is happening to you, consider meditation to help lower your blood pressure and stress hormones.
Your Senses During Pregnancy
It’s no surprise that pregnancy would impact your ears. All of your sense are impacted by pregnancy, often becoming hyper-alert.
- Taste — Women often experience a “bad” taste in the mouth during the first trimester. Eating foods with vinegar or citrus can help.
- Smell — Strong scents you normally find pleasant like shampoo may make you queasy. Some foods like garlic and onions may do the same. Avoid scents that make you feel sick and get some aromatherapy scents that you enjoy.
- Sight — Many women become slightly nearsighted during pregnancy. Hormone changes and fluid-retention may be the cause. If you have diabetes or have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, speak with your doctor about this symptom.
- Touch — Your skin may become very sensitive, and parts of your body might swell or become extremely sore.
While these are all normal during pregnancy, you’re probably wondering how to stop or treat tinnitus.
Does the Ringing Stop After Pregnancy?
Many women say the tinnitus subsides after pregnancy as their hormone levels and other factors return to normal. It may persist in cases of postpartum depression or a very stressful parenting situation.
Others find that once they become aware of it, it never entirely goes away. If this happens, be sure to speak with a hearing specialist. There are ways to treat tinnitus, even when you a pregnant.
How to Get Tinnitus Relief During Pregnancy
There is no cure for tinnitus. But some methods reduce tinnitus symptoms and their impact on your life.
Reducing Pregnancy-Related Tinnitus
Make sure to discuss any treatments with your doctor before attempting to address your tinnitus.
Talk to Your OB/GYN
Your OB/GYN likely has a number of suggestions for treating or making your tinnitus more bearable. They’re here to help you with any symptoms you’re experiencing.
Ask your doctor to check your iron levels, especially if lightheadedness accompanies the ringing. You might have anemia (iron deficiency). Your doctor may also help you better manage your blood pressure.
Ask to See a Specialist
If your OB/GYN’s suggestions aren’t helping, consider seeing a hearing expert. You may need a referral for insurance to cover it. Hearing specialists can help you find tinnitus relief during pregnancy that won’t affect the baby. They may be able to develop more custom solutions for your specific condition.
Relaxing Helps Relieve Tinnitus
This heading may have you screaming at the top of your lungs, ‘How can I relax with this ringing in my ears?’ We get it, it’s not easy. But remember, stress makes tinnitus louder. Even a small reduction in stressful feelings can help.
Relax any way you can safely do so while pregnant. Try exercise, meditation, reading, yoga or doing things you enjoy. These are things that have been shown to help in some studies. Always talk to your doctor regarding exercise routines and supplements during pregnancy.
Focus on the positive and try to redirect your thoughts if they become negative to reduce stress spirals.
Try a Sound Machine
How about the sound of a peaceful creek running over a bed of rocks. Doesn’t that sound nice? Or you might like the constant chug-a-chug-a-chug of a train moving down the tracks. Sound machines typically produce 10 or more ambient sounds so it’s easy to find one that helps drown out the noise so you can sleep or relax.
Sound machines can help distract the brain so that you are no longer aware of your tinnitus.
Speak with a Therapist
This is not to suggest that tinnitus is a mental illness. It’s much more complex than that. But stress, anxiety and depression can make tinnitus worse. Speaking with someone helps you get tinnitus relief during pregnancy.
Get Sound Therapy
Sound therapy is a method where you train the brain not to hear the tinnitus. This kind of cognititve therapy has been shown to help tinnitus and has no adverse affects when you are pregnant.
Get a Hearing Aid
In extreme cases, especially if the tinnitus persists after you have the baby, you can wear an ear device, similar to a hearing aid, which cancels out the sound in the affected ear.
You don’t have to suffer from this condition. Talk to a hearing specialist about other treatment options.