From the first “congratulations!” to the baby’s first cries, pregnancy is a time for hearing so many wonderful things. Hearing loss and tinnitus are probably the last things many women expect during pregnancy, yet both are relatively common. Here, we’ll examine typical causes of hearing loss and tinnitus during pregnancy and when expectant mothers should reach out to a medical professional for a closer look.
What Causes Hearing Loss and Tinnitus During Pregnancy?
One in three pregnant women reports experiencing tinnitus (a ringing or pulsating whooshing sound in the ears), compared to one in 10 women who aren’t pregnant. Significant changes to hormone levels and the circulatory system, as well as other medical conditions, can make pregnant women more susceptible to hearing issues.
High Blood Pressure
The inner ear is very sensitive to changes in blood flow, so high blood pressure can lead to hearing loss. Rhythmic, whooshing sounds from tinnitus can be a symptom of increased blood pressure since there are many blood vessels near the ears. Elevated blood pressure during pregnancy can also be a symptom of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a pregnancy condition characterized by high blood pressure and signs of systemic organ damage, usually to the kidneys and liver.
If untreated, it can lead to eclampsia, which causes seizures and other serious health complications for the mother and baby. Hearing loss and tinnitus are considered red flags for high blood pressure and preeclampsia. If expectant mothers are experiencing these symptoms, they should immediately get screened for potential health conditions.
A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery showed adults with low iron levels were twice as likely to experience hearing loss as those with normal iron levels. Iron deficiency anemia is common during pregnancy, affecting up to 40% of pregnant women. Iron carries oxygen to various parts of the body, so a decrease in iron levels can affect hearing.
Pregnant women need 27 mg of iron every day—about twice as much needed before pregnancy. They should make sure their prenatal vitamins contain correct iron levels and incorporate iron-rich foods into their diet to help keep iron levels stable.
Headaches and Migraines
For those already prone to headaches and migraines, the increased stress of pregnancy will likely make them even more frequent. Unfortunately, headaches and migraines are often coupled with hearing issues, tinnitus, or muffled hearing for expectant mothers. If a pregnant woman is experiencing frequent headaches or migraines, they should be sure to bring it up with their OB/GYN to rule out anything serious.
Progesterone is one of the main hormones responsible for maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Progesterone levels skyrocket during pregnancy, with the body producing up to 10 times more than usual. Increased progesterone alters the nerve cell activity of the inner ear, which can affect hearing. Fluctuations in progesterone and estrogen levels may also lead to anxiety and bouts of depression, which can cause tinnitus.
Schedule a Visit With an Audiologist
Hearing issues during pregnancy often resolve in postpartum, but for some women, they may still continue. If you’re experiencing tinnitus or hearing loss, the audiologists at Associated Hearing Professionals can help you explore safe hearing loss treatment options. We offer two convenient locations in the St. Louis, MO area, and our audiologists have over 70 years of combined experience. Schedule your appointment online or call 314-725-2680 to start working with our dedicated team today.