There is still much to learn about the impact of menopause on hearing health. This is also the case with hormone therapy (HT). Research on mice and early human studies have suggested that taking estrogen can help protect your hearing. However, a different study with the current biggest data pool found the opposite to be true.
If you currently do not experience hearing loss, taking HT may increase your risk. This may occur whether it’s in pill or patch form and for formulas that contain estrogen on its own or when mixed with progesterone.
When the researchers studied data for over 47,000 female nurses over the course of 22 years, they determined that a course of HT for five to 10 years raised the risk of hearing loss in women by 15 percent compared to a woman who did not take HT.
There was a higher risk, the longer a woman continued taking HT. The study indicated that women who went through menopause later in life had an increased risk of hearing loss.
Hearing Loss and Tinnitus during Menopause
It is possible that your hearing abilities might change, or you might develop tinnitus as you reach menopause.
This happens when estrogen creates menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes. Estrogen has an important role in your bones, brain, heart, muscles, and reproductive system. Estrogen receptors are located in hair cells and auditory pathways in the ear, but researchers are still learning how estrogen impacts hearing health.
Sex hormones become altered during a menstrual cycle and during menstruation, so your hearing abilities may become less sensitive. In the perimenopause phase - the years before the ovaries stop releasing eggs and your menstrual cycle ends - your ovaries slowly produce less and less estrogen. During the last year or second to last year of perimenopause, the drop in estrogen becomes more and more rapid. After your period ends, normally after you reach 45 years of age, the ovaries will produce only a small amount of estrogen, but you still receive some from your adrenal glands and fat tissue.
Low levels of estrogen can lead to hearing loss due to changes in blood flow to the cochlea - the hollow tube located in the inner ear. Another study measured hearing and blood levels of estradiol (a form of estrogen) in 1,830 postmenopausal women. In this research, it was found that the test subjects with less estradiol were more prone to experience hearing loss.
Does the Age of Onset Menopause Impact Your Hearing?
The connection between low estrogen levels and hearing loss indicates that women who enter menopause later, at age 50 or more - 51 is the average age of menopause in the U.S. - may have lower risks of hearing loss.
The data in 81,000 nurses showed that women with late natural menopause had a 10 percent higher risk of developing hearing loss. It’s uncertain as to why this occurs.
Advice on Hearing Health and Hormone Therapy
If you start hormone therapy, you should monitor your hearing and take HT only as necessary. Some women have had sudden hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo as a result of HT. Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible if this happens to you.
How can Women Protect Their Hearing Health?
Engage in exercise, have a healthy diet, and keep a healthy weight. People who followed these diets have had significantly lower risks of hearing loss. A Mediterranean diet of fish, vegetables, and whole grains - while reducing meat and snack foods - is recommended.
Be aware of medications that can induce hearing loss, and make sure you reduce your exposure to dangerous noise levels by wearing hearing protection or avoiding loud areas altogether. For a complimentary hearing test and consultation, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing.