Ringing Ears Are A Thing During Pregnancy, So Here's What You Should Know

by Cat Bowen

Pregnancy comes with many complaints, from the mundane to the extreme. And some of these issues are arguably a lot more irritating than others. Ear ringing during pregnancy is one of the single most frustrating things I have ever experienced. If you're hearing the buzz, too, you might be wondering just what it is, and why you're suddenly afflicted with it.

Tinnitus, otherwise known as ringing in the ears, is fairly common during pregnancy, noted the British Tinnitus Association. In fact, a study published in Clinical Otolaryngology found that up to 25 percent of people who become pregnant will experience tinnitus at some point in their pregnancies. While it's normally completely benign, and no cause for concern, there are some cases where the tinnitus is a symptom of potential preeclampsia, so if you're experiencing ringing in your ears, it's advisable to tell your doctor or midwife.

To add an additional layer of confusion, while tinnitus often develops in pregnancy, it's not always due to pregnancy; the hormones just exacerbate a problem you already had, noted Montreal ENT clinic Les Centres Masliah. They wrote on their blog that a buildup of earwax or eardrum injury might be the true cause of the tinnitus.

If you haven't experienced it, let me tell you how lucky you are. Have you ever heard a mosquito zapper when you first turn it on? It's that high-pitched keening buzz that sinks into your flesh and bones and instantly makes you want to turn it off. When I was pregnant with my son, that sound began to creep in on my daily life in waves. At first it was subtle, I'd hear it when I'd been working out, or walking around the city. It seemed like an extension of activity, and I was mostly OK with it. Then, it started happening when I was driving, or riding in an elevator. Eventually, the tinnitus began humming along with me nearly 24 hours per day, seven days a week. It would get louder and more persistent the more activity that I undertook that day.

The ear ringing in pregnancy that I experienced wasn't secondary to any underlying conditions, I am just unlucky. If something can go wrong with my ears or my hearing, it will. However, as medical journal Europe PNC noted, it can be related to blood pressure or potential pre-eclampsia. But for most of us who are unlucky enough to hear that horrible ringing, it's more likely caused by something expected, such as the hormonal soup of pregnancy or playing our music too loudly.

The nerve cells around the cochlea (the structure of the inner ear) are responsible for sending electrical impulses to the brain that register as what we think of as sound, according to the British Tinnitus Association. Tinnitus is the ringing that happens when these nerves become irritated. During pregnancy, this irritation could be the result of number of things, but chief among them that there is just so much more fluid in the body during pregnancy, and that is often manifested by swelling in the sensitive tissues that are filled with lots of tiny vessels, like that of the nose and ear. The same thing that causes pregnancy related rhinitis also causes tinnitus.

It can also just be hormonal. Les Centres Masliah ENT clinic noted that the progesterone that increases in your body during pregnancy can cause tinnitus, but that this can be soothed with a good amount of rest, and strangely enough, sound therapy. They noted that playing sounds like waterfalls or birdsong can ease the discomfort associated with tinnitus.

Tinnitus is one of the most annoying things that can happen during pregnancy, and that's saying something. Tell your doctor about it, and hopefully, you can put together a plan to find some relief.