Menopause & Hearing Loss…
Hearing loss affects almost 1 in 6 people in the UK, however, women are at a significantly lower risk than men. Between the ages of 20 and 69, men are almost TWICE as likely to develop speech-frequency hearing loss. Whilst the reason for this remains unknown, many researchers hypothesise that estrogen may protect the inner ear. Scientists know that we have estrogen receptors in ear cells and auditory pathways.
This could explain why out of the women who do experience hearing loss, a large proportion experience this after menopause.
During menopause, estrogen levels start to decrease. If it is to be believed that estrogen protects the inner ear, then that could explain the link between menopause and hearing loss.
Human and animals studies have shown that low estrogen levels can impair hearing, possibly through alterations in blood flow to the cochlea. A separate study that measured hearing and blood levels of estradiol (a form of estrogen) in 1,830 post-menopausal women found that the volunteers with less estradiol were more likely to have hearing loss.
Age Of Menopause & Hearing Loss
One key question that researchers are asking is: does the age when you hit menopause affect your hearing?
The link between low estrogen and impaired hearing suggests that women who arrive at menopause later, at age 50 or older, might have a lower risk of hearing loss. It makes logical sense that the later you reach menopause, the lower your chances are of experiencing a hearing loss because women who reach menopause sooner will experience earlier drops in estrogen.
However, when Dr. Sharon Curhan’s, MD, a physician and epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, team looked at a pool of data on nearly 81,000 nurses, the opposite was true: The women with late natural menopause surprisingly had a 10 percent higher chance of hearing loss. The reason for this finding is unclear, since we don’t have a full picture of all the factors that affect the age of menopause.
It might seem beneficial to take hormone therapy (HT) to curb the effects of menopause, however, this can be complex. Research with mice and preliminary human studies suggest that taking estrogen can have protective effects on your hearing. However, another study concluded that a course of HT for five to ten years increased a woman’s risk of hearing loss by 15 percent compared to a woman not taking HT.
Protecting Your Hearing
With conflicting data, it is important to be cautious when considering taking hormone therapy. The cause of hearing loss in menopause is yet to be confirmed, but different researchers suggest estrogen could be a key indicator. It is important to keep living a healthy lifestyle to help maintain hearing. For more information, click here for our habits to help your hearing blog.
Additionally, it is important to get your hearing tested. The earlier the intervention, the more solutions you have available to you. Click here to book a hearing test!