Pregnancy can lead to several health issues, which are almost always a part of the process. However, strange symptoms, such as the sounds of ears popping during pregnancy, may also occur.
While it is a normal event, the symptoms may also signal a serious underlying issue in some cases. You are not alone if you find yourself identifying with these issues. Read on to know why your ears make popping sounds in pregnancy and how it can be managed.
What Is Ears Popping?
Ear popping refers to muffled sounds inside the ear due to differences in the air pressure. Ear popping may mean you suffer from some Eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD). It may also mean that your ear is full of wax, and you need to clean it.
Normally, the air pressure inside the ear and outside is the same. But the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the nasal passage and throat, may get blocked due to several reasons. When this happens, the Eustachian tube is unable to maintain the right air pressure in the air. It is then you may feel the need to pop your ears to clear the stuffiness inside or hear a popping sound coming from your ears.
Dr. Alan Lindemann, obstetrician, maternal mortality expert, and former clinical associate professor at the University of North Dakota, says, “Ear popping is found in some pregnancies, having to do with swelling and occlusion of the Eustachian tube and lack of pressure equalization in the middle ear. It is associated with the onset of pregnancy and most often resolves with the baby’s birth.”
The medical term for ears popping is ear barotrauma or barotitis media. Ear popping is a generic name for the problem (1).
Causes Of Ear Popping During Pregnancy
Ear popping sounds may occur due to many reasons.
- Ear popping normally occurs during air travel, at higher altitudes or underwater when the outside air pressure constantly changes.
- It may also occur due to an ear infection, rhinitis, sinusitis, and tension headaches. Eardrum can rupture and cause problems in the Eustachian tube. Cold, allergies, and other respiratory infections may cause fluid buildup in ears thus blocking the Eustachian tube which may lead to popping in the ear.
Dr. Michael Green, a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist from Lake Arrowhead, California, opines, “Ear popping does not necessarily indicate infection; it indicates a change in pressure around the ear. However, if ear popping is paired with pain, drainage, hearing loss, or a feeling of fullness in the ear, it can indicate infection.”
- A defect in the Eustachian tube can also be congenital (since/before birth) (2).
Symptoms Of Ears Popping While Pregnant
Here are some symptoms that may indicate ear problems and the source of the popping sounds inside the ears:
- Discomfort inside the ear
- Feeling of stuffiness or clogged ears
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Temporary hearing loss
Managing Ears Popping During Pregnancy
Your ear problems during pregnancy can be for any number of reasons. But the important thing is to consult your doctor to rule out any severe medical reasons for the same.
For popping sounds due to mild problems inside the ear, your doctor may suggest some easy treatment options such as chewing gum, yawning or stretching. If the problem is ear wax or may be trapped water inside your ears, simple cleanup with an ear bud may help.
Your doctor may also suggest other treatments depending on your pregnancy health.
- Oral decongestants
- Nasal sprays
There are also other measures you can try.
- Steam inhalation may provide you relief from sinus infections nasal congestion, or allergies and thus any popping sounds.
- Use of heating pads over your ears can ease the pain.
- Chewing gum or yawning can also help you with minimizing any problems in your Eustachian tube and prevent popping sounds in case you need to air travel during your pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can stress cause ear popping?
Persistent stress and anxiety can cause patulous Eustachian tube dysfunction. In this condition, the Eustachian tube remains open, letting the sound travel from the nasal cavity to the ears. It is this sound travel that causes individuals to hear different sounds like ear popping (3).
2. Can high blood pressure cause ear popping problems?
High blood pressure affects the blood vessels throughout the body, including the ears. Hence, high blood pressure may cause ear problems. However, whether high blood pressure causes ear popping or not is unclear.
3. Can I go deaf from ears popping?
Ear popping in itself can’t cause hearing loss. However, there are several reasons, such as chronic, untreated Eustachian tube dysfunction that might lead to hearing loss in some cases (4).
Ear popping during pregnancy seems more like a hassle than a cause for concern. It can simply be caused by an ear obstruction produced by ear wax or by an ear or sinus infection. Consult your doctor to rule out any severe concerns about ear-popping sounds. Chewing gum, yawning, stretching, steam inhalation, or simple cleansing with an earbud are all possible treatments. However, you should avoid using over-the-counter (OTC) medications for ear infections, especially when pregnant, and avoid poking your ears with a sharp item in general.
Infographic: Managing Ears Popping During Pregnancy
Ears popping during pregnancy can be managed by simple home-care measures that might help equalize the pressure in the ears. This infographic explains how you can control ear popping while pregnant; you may try these tips for quick relief. However, if the ear popping is accompanied by pain or discomfort, consult a healthcare provider promptly.
- Ear popping during pregnancy could indicate respiratory infections, eustachian tube dysfunction, or obstruction.
- The condition is usually caused by blockage of the eustachian tube due to fluctuations in inner ear pressure.
- Other symptoms may include earache, dizziness, and temporary hearing loss.
- Treatment options for ear popping during pregnancy may include steam inhalation, chewing gum, yawning, prescribed medicines, and nasal sprays.
- Air Travel.
- Ear barotrauma.
- Eustachian Tube Dysfunction.
- Eustachian Tube Dysfunction.
- How To Pop and Unclog Your Ears.