Hearing & Health

Pregnancy, Childbirth & Hearing Loss

Pregnant woman smiling standing up.

Hearing loss can happen to anyone at any time, but you may not expect it to happen after giving birth.

After Edda Collins Coleman had her third C-section, her baby daughter was checked out for standard complications. While this was happening, Coleman felt a strong pain after her vitals were taken and a nurse pressed down on her stomach. She then experienced hearing loss. 

The anesthesiologist went over Coleman’s condition and reassured her that her hearing would go back to normal after the head congestion, a common symptom in pregnancy, went away. In Coleman’s case, her hearing never came back. 

The Mysteries of Hearing Loss during Pregnancy or Childbirth

There is still no explanation as to why hearing loss may occur during pregnancy or childbirth. We know that changes in hormones or high blood pressure may cause hearing loss. This may include ears that feel blocked up or hearing buzzing noises in the background. It’s worth noting that losing your hearing during pregnancy and/or childbirth is rare. 

Coleman’s head congestion went away the following day, but noises were muted and her hearing did not feel normal. For months, things did not get better. As she drove her car, she noticed loud humming noises ringing in her ears. Her children’s voices from the backseat sounded muffled, and she couldn’t seem to hear the cashier at the grocery store. She also realized that she was unable to hear her co-workers when they approached her desk to speak to her. She frequently had to ask others to repeat themselves while they were speaking directly to her. 

The Delay in Seeking Help for Hearing Loss

It took Coleman nine months after giving birth to seek help, with some encouragement from her husband. 

She was diagnosed with severe hearing loss in both ears. Over a quarter of her hearing was lost in her left ear and nearly 40 percent was lost in her right ear. She has difficulty hearing the differences in lower tones. This affects the way she hears music and people speaking.    

According to the British Tinnitus Association, more than one-third of pregnant women develop tinnitus. It can be triggered by stress, headaches, high blood pressure, and other conditions that are associated with pregnant women. In most cases, tinnitus will disappear after the birth of the baby.       

Otosclerosis, which is abnormal bone growth in the middle ear, can occur during pregnancy. It might be the result of changes in a woman’s hormones. Mild or severe hearing loss may occur, but hearing aids or surgery can relieve these symptoms. 

There is a possible connection between pregnancy and otosclerosis, although it is not fully understood. It is more common in women in their 20s and 30s and can be caused by genetics or environmental factors.

Coleman’s hearing loss did not happen during her pregnancy, so otosclerosis was eliminated as a probable cause. 

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), or sudden deafness, is when there is nerve damage in the inner ear. This became another possible cause her physicians examined. She was informed that this type of hearing loss is permanent. 

A Closer Examination, but with No Concrete Answers

After undergoing several other tests, she was diagnosed with another problem that her doctors believe caused her hearing loss: Coleman has an abnormally shaped cochlea – this is located in the inner ear and converts sound into nerve signals to the brain. Even though this does not explain why childbirth caused her hearing loss, she can get more genetic testing done to understand why her cochlea is deformed. This will also help her three daughters determine if they have inherited the problem.

The year after her daughter was born, Coleman started wearing hearing aids. They significantly helped her hear again. Her tinnitus is unnoticeable while wearing the devices, but can be heard again when taking them out before bedtime. It’s not disruptive enough to affect her sleep. Hearing aids helped her hear her daughter’s first words, laughter, music, theater, birds chirping, and important conversations during meetings. Asking others to repeat themselves and enunciate their words is still something she has to deal with, but it’s better than before she started wearing hearing aids. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing for a complimentary hearing test and consultation. 

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