Have you been experiencing ringing in your ears? Do you suspect it’s related to your pregnancy but aren’t sure why?
Tinnitus affects 15 percent of the population, including pregnant women. Today, we’re going to talk about how it happens, how to handle it, and what you can do to prevent it from happening. Also, find out 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, jackhammer, or buzzing sounds.
Pulsatile tinnitus is a rare form of tinnitus that follows a steady, predictable beat (1). Generally, tinnitus can come from a variety of reasons, and being pregnant does not exempt you from experiencing it (2).
Tinnitus is not a diagnosis on its own, instead it’s usually just a symptom of something deeper going on. Sometimes tinnitus may be caused by minor reasons., but since this isn’t always the case, it’s important to check in with your doctor whenever you begin to experience continuous ringing in your ears.
What Causes Tinnitus?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what causes tinnitus. There are a number of reasons you could be experiencing it, 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 (3).
- A bite problem: Otherwise known as “somatic” tinnitus, this form is related to dental problems, or even neck injuries. This may be alleviated by wearing a mouthpiece at night (4).
- Headaches: Ever had one of those headaches where the silence hurts? The ringing in your ears could be an early sign of a migraine, something pregnant women are at a higher risk for.
- High blood pressure: Increased blood pressure can cause tinnitus because the brain is so close to the ears and there’s a high amount of 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. 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 Healthcare provider, 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 (5).
There are also a few more serious reasons, but these are pretty rare. Nevertheless, this is why it’s always good to tell your Healthcare provider about your symptoms.
- Ear tumor: This is an extremely rare occurrence, and should only be considered if you’re experiencing other related symptoms (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: Depression during pregnancy isn’t talked about enough, but it happens. It’s not uncommon, either and ringing ears could be a side effect of prolonged stress or mood disorders. Please, seek out support! This is an exciting and ever-changing time; it can be very beneficial to have a therapist or counselor to support you and work through worries and emotions.
- Otosclerosis: In otosclerosis, bones abnormally grow in your ear. Crazy, right? Pregnancy can make pre-existing otosclerosis worse, and intensify tinnitus (7).
- Preeclampsia: Tinnitus may be a warning sign for this condition, which affects 5 percent of pregnant women (8).
These are only a few of the reasons why people experience tinnitus and if you’re experiencing tinnitus tell your Healthcare 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, such as:
- Sleeping problems: Being unable to fall or stay asleep is common for those with tinnitus, especially if they’re already uncomfortable during pregnancy.
- Poor mood: Nothing can bother an expecting mama more than too many physical problems, aches, and pains. Tinnitus doesn’t hurt, but it can affect your mood. You need a spa day!
- Increased headaches: With all that ringing bouncing around, 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 after birth.
Some tinnitus is very short-term, 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 is possible and occurs if the cause is more serious than common reasons like those we mentioned. A doctor will be able to 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 (9).
If you have any past experiences with tinnitus, 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 for tinnitus, but instead 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! That’s the most important part after establishing the why. Solving the how when it comes to dealing with 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. You need to first treat the cause to make this pregnancy symptom go away, 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 get worse, 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
Taking care of your body and making sure you’re giving it everything it needs to function during this time while carrying your baby is very important. A doctor can give you more in-depth information on what supplements can help you, too! Adding foods rich in zinc to your diet can help reduce the effect of tinnitus, foods like meats, shellfish, legumes & seeds (11).
3. Follow a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet can be the saving grace to your tinnitus. If you’re following your pregnancy restrictions, such as no smoking or 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, I know how tough those pregnancy cravings can be! So, 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. At least for my house, there is never a completely noise-free period. For tinnitus, this can be great!
But 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 on low or open your window. Having white noise or background noise distracts your hearing nerves, so the tinnitus doesn’t seem as loud.
5. Meditation and Yoga
Coming to terms with the ringing and just accepting it as a passing pregnancy symptom, because likely that’s all it will be. Although it’s hard, trust me, I 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 too, and is something any pregnant woman should get involved in. 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.
Stay relaxed and try out the tips we discussed. If you’ve dealt with tinnitus during pregnancy, we’d love to hear any tips you’ve got in the comments below!