Menopause is associated with a number of unpleasant symptoms such as irregular periods, mood swings, weight gain and hot flashes that make many want to jump into Lake Houston to find relief. But did you know that menopause has also been linked to hearing loss? We explore this link below.
Hearing Loss & Menopause
It is not uncommon for people to experience changes to their hearing – both hearing loss and tinnitus – in the years leading up to menopause as well as during menopause. This is likely due to drops in estrogen levels.
Estrogen plays an essential role in keeping the muscles, bones, heart, brain, reproductive system and auditory system functioning. Researchers are not fully sure how estrogen impacts hearing, but they do know that there are estrogen receptors in the ear cells, and that auditory pathways are sensitive to changes in estrogen levels.
In the years before your ovaries stop releasing eggs, called perimenopause, less and less estrogen is produced, with a significant drop in the last year or two. After age 45-50 once your periods ends, the ovaries produce very little of the hormone.
According to a 2017 study, low levels of estrogen can impair hearing, likely because of changes in blood flow within the cochlea. In addition, another study from back in 2002 found that women who have gone through menopause and have less estradiol (a form of estrogen) were more likely to have hearing loss than those with more estradiol.
Hormone Therapy & Hearing Loss
Unfortunately, hormone therapy may not help prevent these auditory changes.
Early studies on mice and humans once suggested that taking estrogen may have protective effects on hearing; however, a larger, more recent analysis shows otherwise.
Dr. Cuhran and her team at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston analyzed data from more than 47,000 female nurses spanning 22 years. In their study, the researchers concluded that a course of HT for 5-10 years increased a woman’s risk of hearing loss by 15%; the risk was greater the longer a woman was on HT.
If you notice changes to your hearing around age 45-50, this could be why. For more information or to schedule an appointment for a hearing test, call Hearing Systems today.