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HRT may cause hearing loss in older women

New research claims a link between HRT and hearing loss

Thursday 11 May
HRT may cause hearing loss in older women

Editor - May 11 at 07:00

Women who take hormone replacement therapy to cope with the menopause may be putting their hearing at risk. A decade on HRT increases women’s chances of hearing loss by between 15 and 21 per cent, a study has found. It was thought that the pills, which many women take for years, might slow age-related deafness by substituting oestrogen lost from the body in late middle-age. But researchers found that the opposite was true, with the risk of hearing loss rising by 15 per cent after only five years on hormone pills, which typically include the female sex hormones oestrogen and progestogen.
Although they do not know the cause, scientists suspect a surge of the hormone from HRT could disrupt oestrogen receptors in the ear’s hair cells that pick up sound, and the tissue that carries it to the brain. The study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, examined self-reported hearing loss in 80,792 post-menopausal women. Lead author Dr Sharon Curhan said: ‘Hearing loss is a common and often disabling condition that can adversely influence communication, social wellbeing, health and quality of life. ‘For many women, hormone therapy helps manage hot flushes, night sweats and bone loss, improving sleep and making a vital difference to their quality of life.’ But she added: ‘Our study found hormone therapy use was associated with higher risk of hearing loss, and the risk tended to increase with duration of use.’ Oestrogen is known to affect hearing, with younger women actually less able to hear during the part of their menstrual cycle when the level of the hormone is lowest. Previous studies suggested the menopause may increase women’s risk of deafness – which led scientists to think that HRT could help.
The US research is the first large study looking at hearing loss and hormone therapy, which is taken by around one million women in Britain. Compared with those who never used any type of HRT, the results show that taking the tablets for five to nine years raised women’s risk of hearing loss by 15 per cent. For those on them for a decade or more, the likelihood rose to 21 per cent. Women, like men, lose their hearing as they age. But the study found those who had the menopause at an older age had a higher risk of hearing loss. This could be due to a longer exposure to oestrogen and progestogen during their lifetime. A study last month showed HRT could protect against heart disease, with women in their fifties and sixties having a 30 per cent lower chance of dying over eight years. This is believed to be because the oestrogen stops arteries blocking, furring and stiffening. But the evidence differs over whether it raises the risk of some cancer. Dr Heather Currie, of the British Menopause Society, said: ‘This trial relies on self-reported hearing loss and does not prove that HRT causes this – only that there may be an association. This should not terrify women and the decision about HRT should be based on the balance of benefits and risks.’
Source:Daily Mail


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