Hearing loss in pregnancy – when can it happen and who does it affect?

After one of the mums in our forum shared how she experienced deafness in pregnancy, we asked a doctor when and why it happens

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When one of our mums shared a post on our forum telling how she lost her hearing during pregnancy, to such an extent that she struggled to hear her baby grizzling, we were intrigued to find out more. 

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We asked Dr Philippa Kaye to look into it, and she advised that there’s a condition called otosclerosis which is a common cause of hearing loss in young people in their 20s and 30s, affecting 1-2 out of every 100 people (either one or both ears can be affected).

And while, she says, it’s not actually thought to be caused by pregnancy, it can be worsened by it – which means that pregnancy hormones may have a role to play.

And because it makes symptoms worse, you may first notice it during pregnancy. 

So, what actually happens when you have otosclerosis?

“The bones of the middle ear are affected,” says Philippa. “These bones normally vibrate to transmit sound but in otosclerosis they can fuse and not be able to move, so can’t transmit sound as well. 

“We aren’t sure exactly why it happens but is currently thought to be related to genetic factors (so it is hereditary) and environmental factors, for example, a complication after a virus or potentially linked to low fluoride levels.”

If you are concerned about your hearing, seek medical advice for a hearing test.

If you are diagnosed with otosclerosis, depending on how severely you are affected, you may be offered a hearing aid or surgery.

Dr Philippa Kaye is a London GP who has written several books on pregnancy and childcare including The First Five Years. See www.drphilippakaye.com and follow her on twitter @drphilippakaye

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