Have you been experiencing ringing in your ears during pregnancy? We’ve been there, and we understand your frustration. Tinnitus can make you feel like you’re losing your mind.
Tinnitus is a condition that affects millions of Americans. And although one in 10 women will experience it at some point, one out of every three women will experience tinnitus during pregnancy (1).
In this article, we’ll discuss what causes tinnitus, how to handle it, and what you can do to prevent it from happening. We’ll also explain why your pregnancy has brought along the tinny ringing!
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a fancy way to say “ringing ears.” However, tinnitus isn’t always a ringing sound. Some people experience hissing, jackhammering, or buzzing sounds.
Pulsatile tinnitus is a rare form of tinnitus that follows a steady, predictable beat (2). Generally, tinnitus can come from a variety of causes, and being pregnant does not exempt you from experiencing it (3). In fact, being pregnant increases your chance of experiencing tinnitus.
Tinnitus is not a diagnosis on its own; it’s usually a symptom of something deeper going on. Sometimes tinnitus may be caused by minor things. However, since this isn’t always the case, it’s essential to check in with your doctor if you begin to experience continuous ringing in your ears.
What Causes Tinnitus?
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause of tinnitus as there are many reasons you could be experiencing it — these range from minor to major causes.
Let’s look at a few of the most common reasons why your ears may be ringing while you’re pregnant:
- Wax build-up: If you have a blockage in the external ear canal, the way sound passes through your ear canal changes. Essentially, your eardrum can’t operate properly if the canal is blocked, so you may just need to clean out those ears.
- A bite problem: Somatic tinnitus is a form related to dental problems or neck injuries. This tinnitus may be alleviated by wearing a mouthpiece at night.
- Headaches: Ever had one of those headaches where even the silence hurts? The ringing in your ears could be an early sign of a migraine, something pregnant women are at a higher risk of (4).
- High blood pressure: Increased blood pressure can cause tinnitus because the brain is so close to the ears, and there are many blood vessels in that area. In this case, controlling your blood pressure should reduce your tinnitus.
- Anemia: Iron deficiencies can also cause tinnitus, and pregnant women are at a higher risk for anemia (5). Getting a blood test can determine if this is the cause. If your tinnitus doesn’t go away with increased iron intake, it may be time to look into other causes.
Don’t start an iron supplement without talking to your health care provider first. Iron supplements carry their own side effects and shouldn’t be taken unless needed.
Editor's Note:Katelyn Holt RN, BSN, BC
- Hormones: Yep, we can use this excuse once again! Those good old baby-sustaining hormones are giving us another problem to worry about as they fluctuate.
There are also a few more serious reasons, but these are pretty rare. Nevertheless, this is why it’s always good to tell your health care provider about your symptoms.
- Ear tumor: This is an extremely rare occurrence and generally includes several other related symptoms, including hearing loss, vertigo, and a loss or decrease in facial muscle movement (6).
- Loss of hearing: If you’re pregnant, it’s unlikely you’re old enough to start experiencing hearing loss related to aging. That doesn’t mean you’re protected from loud noises, though! This is the most common cause of tinnitus.
- Depression and stress: We don’t talk about depression during pregnancy enough, but it happens, and it’s not uncommon either. Ringing ears could be a side effect of prolonged stress or mood disorders. If this is the case for you, please, seek support! Pregnancy can be an exciting and ever-changing time. It can be very beneficial to have a therapist or counselor to support you and help you work through any worries or emotions.
- Otosclerosis: If you have otosclerosis, bones grow abnormally in your ear. Crazy, right? Pregnancy can make pre-existing otosclerosis worse, intensifying tinnitus.
- Preeclampsia: Tinnitus may be a warning sign for this condition, which affects 5% of pregnant women.
These are only a few of the reasons people experience tinnitus. If you’re experiencing tinnitus, tell your health care provider.
Does Tinnitus Affect Your Pregnancy?
Fortunately, if you and your doctor have eliminated all of the serious causes of tinnitus, you’re left with nothing more than an annoyance. Of course, this annoyance can come with some irritating side effects in addition to the consistent ringing.
These are some of the related issues that may accompany tinnitus:
- Sleeping problems: Being unable to fall asleep or stay asleep is common for those with tinnitus, especially if they’re already uncomfortable during pregnancy.
- Poor mood: Nothing bothers an expecting mama more than too many physical problems, aches, and pains. Tinnitus doesn’t hurt, but it can affect your mood. You may require a spa day!
- Increased headaches: With all that ringing in your head, you’re bound to be pretty sensitive to anything that could bring on a headache.
How Long Does Tinnitus Last?
The duration of your tinnitus depends entirely on the cause. If it’s purely pregnancy-related, from hormones or other factors, it should go away within a few weeks of your baby’s birth.
Some tinnitus exists for a very short time, such as after a concert or during a migraine. It will clear up if you give your ears some rest and avoid triggers. This is the best kind of tinnitus since it’s not permanent!
However, chronic tinnitus can occur if the cause is more serious. A doctor can give you a better time frame after checking out your ears, hearing, and other related functions.
Is Tinnitus Common During Pregnancy?
Considering that tinnitus affects over 50 million Americans, the chance of suffering tinnitus, in general, is pretty high. Also, tinnitus is reportedly the most common ear symptom experienced by women during pregnancy (7).
If you have experienced tinnitus in the past or have hearing damage, prolonged exposure to loud noises, or headaches, you’re at a higher risk of getting it while pregnant. Pregnancy alone is not a cause of tinnitus but an exacerbating factor.
5 Ways To Handle Pregnancy-Related Tinnitus
Now that all the facts and information are out of the way, we can focus on relief! Solving the reason for your tinnitus is vital to surviving it, even if only for 9 months.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus since it’s not an illness. First, you need to treat the root cause of tinnitus to make this pregnancy symptom disappear, but you can do some easy things at home to cope.
1. Avoid Loud Sounds
Loud noises, such as fireworks or music on full volume, can be a major trigger for all tinnitus, regardless of the cause. Silence can equally cause tinnitus to worsen, so try to stay around sound-neutral places.
It’s important to treat your ears gently for as long as tinnitus lasts. Whenever you feel pain or an increase in the ringing, stop and try to get away from the trigger.
2. Zinc Supplements
Zinc can help reduce the effect of tinnitus caused by hearing loss. Your prenatal supplements include zinc, so if you’re not already taking them, make sure to start soon!
Taking care of your body and making sure you’re giving it everything it needs to function while carrying your baby is very important. A doctor can give you more in-depth information on what supplements can help you. Adding foods rich in zinc to your diet, like meats, shellfish, legumes, and seeds, can help reduce the effect of tinnitus (8).
3. Follow a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet can be the saving grace for your tinnitus. If you’re following pregnancy restrictions, such as avoiding smoking and tons of caffeine, you’re doing great already. Avoiding sugar, excessive amounts of salt, and alcohol will also reduce the ringing. Eat a balanced diet, including the best fruits during pregnancy.
Still, we know how tough those pregnancy cravings can be. Next time you want to grab the junk food, think of that annoying ringing.
4. Keep White Noise in the Background at All Times
As a mom, or even a soon-to-be one, you know silence is a rare experience in your home. In my house, there is never a completely noise-free period. For tinnitus sufferers, this can be great!
Whenever there’s dead silence, you’ll probably experience an increase in the ringing, which can sometimes be maddening. Keeping white noise in the background, playing soft music, or having a fan blowing will be helpful. If you don’t like these ideas, try keeping the TV volume low or opening a window. White noise and background noise distracts your hearing nerves, so the tinnitus won’t seem as loud.
5. Meditation and Yoga
It helps if you can come to terms with the ringing and accept it as a passing pregnancy symptom because that’s likely all it will be. Although it’s hard — trust us, we know the feeling — try to stop focusing and stressing on the ringing.
Meditation can help by relaxing your body and mind. It can also relieve tense muscles, headaches, and depression or stress-related factors that could worsen your tinnitus. If you can’t handle the quiet, feel free to rely on white noise to get through the process.
Like meditation, yoga can be beneficial and is something any pregnant woman should practice. Staying fit and active even as your belly grows is important for your health and can loosen and strengthen joints and muscles.
Tinnitus during pregnancy, while annoying, is manageable and has a good prognosis.
Pregnancy can often bring on tinnitus without any underlying health problems, so try not to stress if you notice ringing in your ears.