Understanding Hearing Loss During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman who's suffering from sudden hearing loss having her blood pressure checked

Sure, pregnancy is amazing and wonderful. But it can also be kind of… unpleasant–at least sometimes, and at least in terms of how it can make you feel. There’s the morning sickness, the changes to your body, the health hazards, and all kinds of weird side effects. (None of this takes away from the joy of being a parent… but it’s a whole process to get there.)

And now there’s another possible little drawback to add to the list: hearing loss.

Most people don’t immediately associate hearing loss with pregnancy. So it may be surprising to learn that pregnancy-related hearing loss is somewhat common. This means that these symptoms are worth keeping on your radar. In some cases, the cause of pregnancy-related hearing loss is harmless and banal. In other cases, the cause is a serious concern and may require immediate medical treatment. Is hearing loss during pregnancy permanent? Well, the answer kind of depends on the root cause–and how quickly you treat it.

What are the symptoms of pregnancy-related hearing loss?

Hearing loss during pregnancy doesn’t show up on a lot of sitcoms or in many romantic comedies. (It’s not nearly as cinematic as something like morning sickness.) This means that, generally, people may be less likely to expect pregnancy-related hearing loss. So, it may be helpful to know what to look out for.

After all, the symptoms of pregnancy-related hearing loss go beyond turning up the volume on your television. The most common symptoms include the following:

  • Everything seems quieter: Sure, this is probably the most obvious sign of hearing loss. But if it comes on suddenly, it’s something called “sudden sensorineural hearing loss.” Any type of sudden hearing loss during pregnancy should be reported to your healthcare team as soon as possible–and may require emergency treatment to prevent the sudden hearing loss from becoming permanent.
  • Tinnitus: Pregnancy-related hearing loss is often associated with tinnitus–or a ringing or buzzing in the ears. In some cases, this tinnitus might even sound like or take on the rhythm of your own heartbeat (this is called pulsatile tinnitus). Whether this tinnitus exists on its own or with hearing loss, it’s worth talking to your care team about what you’re feeling.
  • Dizziness and imbalance: In many cases, pregnancy related hearing loss can impact the inner ear (or, in some cases, whatever is impacting the inner ear also causes hearing loss). Whenever your inner ear is not working properly, you may experience problems with balance and dizziness accompanying your hearing loss. Pregnancy-related hearing loss is no exception.
  • A feeling of fullness in your ears: Pregnancy-related hearing loss may sometimes be accompanied by a feeling of stuffiness or fullness in your ears.
  • Headaches and migraines: You may also experience an increase in the number of headaches or migraines you have on a regular basis.

None of these symptoms are necessarily universal. Depending on the root cause of your pregnancy-related hearing loss, you may experience some symptoms but not others. In any case, if you experience hearing loss or any of the associated symptoms while you are pregnant, it’s usually a good idea to talk to your provider. That’s because these symptoms can sometimes be a sign of some rare but bigger problems.

What causes pregnancy-related hearing loss?

Does being pregnant affect hearing? Well, maybe–sometimes. But being pregnant may also affect other parts of your body that then go on to impact your hearing.

So, what are the possible causes of pregnancy-related hearing loss? Well, they vary… but some of the most common include:

  • High blood pressure: While you are pregnant, high blood pressure can cause tinnitus and hearing loss. And this is, in part, why it’s very important to tell your provider about your hearing loss. High blood pressure can be a symptom of preeclampsia and other serious conditions. These are issues that need to be monitored carefully throughout your pregnancy.
  • Bone growth: There’s a rare condition called otosclerosis in which the tiny bones in your ear start growing more rapidly–and this accelerated growth blocks the ability of sound to pass through your ears. In pregnant individuals, this bone faster growth may be caused by changes in your hormones or other changes in your body. (It should be noted that research into otosclerosis during pregnancy–and just how much it impacts hearing–is ongoing.)
  • Changes in your circulatory system (and hormones): Your body is doing an exceptional amount of work when you become pregnant. As a result, all kinds of changes are afoot–both in terms of your hormones and your circulatory system. This has the potential to interfere with your ability to hear.
  • An iron deficiency: An iron deficiency while you’re pregnant can have a wide variety of repercussions for your health and your child’s health. One of those impacts can sometimes be hearing loss in the person who is pregnant.
  • Some of the typical things: If you develop an ear infection, a sinus infection, or any kind of blockage in your ear (such as earwax), this can cause hearing loss whether you’re pregnant or not!

In some cases, the cause of your hearing loss simply won’t be all that well understood. The important thing will be to keep an eye on your symptoms and be in regular communication with your provider.

How is this type of hearing loss treated?

Treatment of this type of hearing loss will likely depend on the most likely root cause. The question that many people have is: will my hearing return to normal? In most cases, yes, your hearing will return to normal once your pregnancy is over–or maybe even before.

However, this is not always the default, so it’s important to be proactive when you notice symptoms. For example, bone growth is blocking your ear canal, you may require additional treatment. Likewise, if you suffer from sudden sensorineural hearing loss, the outcome will depend on how quickly you receive treatment.

That’s why it’s so important to make sure you report these symptoms to your provider. You may then undergo a comprehensive hearing screening or evaluation to help get to the bottom of your symptoms (or at least rule out any of the more dangerous possible impacts).

Protect your hearing

Even when you’re pregnant–while you’re juggling so many other things–it’s important to make sure you pay attention to and protect your hearing. One of the best ways to do that is to stay in touch with a hearing specialist and with your care team.

Schedule an appointment with a highly qualified hearing specialist near you today.

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