Pregnancy is truly a journey, with little touches of unexpected experiences. Among those experiences, some are not widely known or understood. This is the case with tinnitus. A common phenomenon for some is ears ringing during pregnancy.
In this article, we will talk about this uncomfortable symptom, its connection with pregnancy, and the possible causes that researchers suggest. As we explore why tinnitus happens, we also will mention some possible strategies (or tips) to address this issue, which is commonly solved after childbirth.
- What is tinnitus and why does it happen in pregnancy?
- How can I manage it?
- Does it go away after my baby is born?
Table of Contents
What is Tinnitus?
The experience of buzzing, whooshing, or ringing in your ears, or maybe in your head, is not rare. All of us, once in our lives, experience this, and it is called tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a condition characterized by the perception of noise or ringing in the ears when there is no external sound source. This phantom noise can be continuous or intermittent and may vary in intensity.
To note: tinnitus is not a disease but could be a symptom of an underlying issue -such as age-related hearing loss, or exposure to loud noises.
Why Are My Ears Ringing During Pregnancy?
In the inner ear, some nerve cells convert the vibrations of sound waves into electrical impulses, which travel via the auditory nerve into the brain.This system is sensitive and may be altered by physical changes during pregnancy and mimic a buzzing. While the exact cause behind this is still unraveled, researchers have some suggestions:
- Increasing circulating blood volume (which increases blood pressure) is a normal change in pregnant women. Well… The inner ear is surrounded by blood vessels, and this pressure increase is transmitted directly to the fluid that converts the nerve cells, which triggers an electrical impulse to the brain and the perception of a buzzing sound.
- During pregnancy, natural retention of salts and water occurs, which may lead to a swelling surrounding the nerve cells, and again an electrical impulse between the ear and brain is triggered, and the buzzing sound appears.
- The natural changes in hormonal balance during pregnancy, mainly estrogen and progesterone, are associated with many pregnancy symptoms, and tinnitus is no exception. These hormonal changes may alter the nerve cell activity and cause or increase tinnitus.
Other causes could be associated with tinnitus, like anemia, ear infections, stress, poor sleep, or even an earwax blockage. However, it is worth mentioning that physical and emotional changes during pregnancy, as well as stress and anxiety, may exacerbate ear ringing, but this situation is usually temporary and dissipates after birth of the child.
In What Stage of Pregnancy Could This Start?
While you may find relief from tinnitus after childbirth, ear ringing is not restricted to a specific period during pregnancy. It can manifest at any time. Nevertheless, most women tend to observe it more prominently in the later stages, primarily attributable to elevated blood volume and fluid retention characteristic of the third trimester. Furthermore, two out of three women who already experience tinnitus before pregnancy face an elevated risk of its persistence and exacerbation, particularly as they approach the third trimester.
It Sounds More Complex Than I Thought… Is it a Common Issue During Pregnancy?
Yes, it is the most common ear symptom experienced by pregnant women. However, it might not be as widely discussed as other pregnancy symptoms, such as morning sickness or fatigue.
In the general population, between 1-2 in 10 adults suffer from tinnitus, and these ringing ears are associated with age, pathological complications, or even noise exposure. But in pregnant women, the risk of suffering tinnitus is bigger: 1 in 3 pregnant women!
What Can I Do to Prevent My Ears Ringing During Pregnancy?
While it may not be possible to prevent tinnitus entirely, especially during pregnancy, some lifestyle choices may reduce the risk, or even the severity:
- Protect your ears: Avoid exposure to loud noises when possible, and if protection, such as earplugs, is available, use it in noisy environments.
- Manage stress: Incorporate stress-reducing activities into your routine, such as yoga, mindfulness, or meditation. Effectively managing stress not only contributes to alleviating tinnitus but also positively influences the overwhelming aspects of the pregnant state.
- Monitor blood pressure: Keeping an eye on your blood pressure is essential, as high blood pressure can contribute to tinnitus and is a sign of other pregnancy complications, like pre-eclampsia.
- Soft sounds: you can play soft and pleasant sounds from a smartphone app or through headphones (they can provide relief anywhere and anytime). This technique makes tinnitus less noisy.
Great! But What If I Am Already Suffering From Tinnitus, Can Pregnancy Make it Worse?
For some women, pregnancy can exacerbate existing tinnitus. Two out of three women who have tinnitus before pregnancy report an exacerbation of the symptom particularly during the second and towards the third trimester.
The hormonal increase and fluctuations (the body produces ten times progesterone during pregnancy) and increased stress and anxiety associated with pregnancy might contribute to an intensification of the buzzy noise in the ears.
So, Can I Reverse Tinnitus if I Am Pregnant? Are There Any Tips?
As we talked, tinnitus is not a disease, so there is no guaranteed cure for it. However, there are strategies and lifestyle changes that may help you manage and alleviate this uncomfortable symptom. Some common approaches to managing tinnitus include:
- Stress reduction: Pregnancy is a stressful situation, so reducing stress may help alleviate the symptoms:
- Practicing relaxation techniques: such as deep breathing or meditation
- Tinnitus Exercises: Check out this youtube video for some great simple exercises to help relieve tinnitus
- Cut activities: ask for help with the chores or other activities.
- A good sleep and rest.
- Reduce anxiety: by learning what to expect during pregnancy and labor. Check out more of our pregnancy related content to educate and empower you so you know what to expect.
- Noise management: Using background noise, such as white noise (and extra tip? this would help your baby sleep) machines or soft music, can help distract from the ringing and make it less noticeable, and this may relax you.
- Healthy lifestyle choices: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet, can contribute to overall well-being and potentially lessen the impact of tinnitus.
Can Tinnitus Become Permanent After Pregnancy?
First of all, I have to say that if you develop tinnitus during pregnancy, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional.
As we talked about, tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom of “something”. Usually, pregnancy changes trigger temporal tinnitus. But may be an early sign of gestational hypertension or preeclampsia and such cases should be carefully monitored. While tinnitus is not considered a positive predictive factor of developing pre-eclampsia, it is highly recommended to perform an additional non-routine assessment for pre-eclampsia if tinnitus is presented. The healthcare team can help identify any underlying causes and recommend appropriate interventions.
Experiencing ear ringing during pregnancy can be unsettling, but it’s essential to remember that you are not alone. Many pregnant women suffer from this symptom called tinnitus, which in most cases, is temporary. If you find yourself grappling with persistent tinnitus, seek guidance from your healthcare provider.
Understanding the connection between pregnancy and tinnitus is the first step toward managing and finding relief from this condition. By adopting healthy lifestyle habits, minimizing exposure to loud noises, and addressing stress, you can empower yourself to navigate the challenges of tinnitus during pregnancy.
Tinnitus may add an unexpected element to your pregnancy journey, proactive measures and professional guidance can make it more manageable. Embrace the support available to you, and remember that, in most cases, the ringing in your ears will likely subside after giving birth, allowing you to focus on the joys of parenthood.
Monica has a Ph.D. specializing in molecular and cell biology. with more than 10 years in reproductive medicine, she has now turned to medical and scientific communication through writing. She is passionate about scientific writing, and her goal is to turn the complex language of science into simple and relatable words.