Women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to help alleviate symptoms of the menopause may have an increased risk of hearing loss, a study has found.
Some previous studies have indicated that the menopause itself may make women more likely to experience hearing loss, perhaps due to the reduction in the hormone oestrogen circulating in the body. Under these circumstances, replacing naturally occurring oestrogen with HRT would be expected to protect hearing.
Long-Term Health Study
To investigate the role of the menopause and HRT as risk factors for hearing loss, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in the US examined data on 80,972 women enrolled in a long-term health study.
During the study period 23% of the women self-reported hearing loss.
They found that the risk of hearing loss among women who took HRT for between 5 and 9.9 years was 15% higher than for those women who did not.
Those who took HRT for longer had a higher risk of hearing loss. Those taking the therapy for 10 years or longer had a 21% higher risk of hearing loss.
Overall, the researchers did not find any significant link between the menopause and hearing loss. However, the risk was higher among those women who experienced a later menopause.
The researchers behind the study, which is published in the journal Menopause, say the role of sex hormones oestrogen and progestogen in hearing is complex and not fully understood. Also, they are unable to prove cause and effect because of the observational nature of their investigation.
Risks v Benefits of HRT
Nevertheless, they say their findings suggest that the future of their hearing should be a consideration for women when they weigh up the risks and benefits of HRT.
Replacing female hormones with HRT is an effective way of relieving some of the symptoms of the menopause that include hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and loss of sex drive.
Commenting on the study in an emailed statement, Dr Heather Currie, chairman of the British Menopause Society, says: "This type of trial relies on women's 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, as we have always said, the decision about HRT should be an individual choice based on the balance of benefits and risks."
Menopause and postmenopausal hormone therapy and risk of hearing loss, Curhan S et al, Menopause
Brigham and Women's Hospital
British Menopause Society
WebMD Health News © 2017
Cite this: Peter Russell. HRT Linked to Women's Hearing Loss - Medscape - May 12, 2017.