Hearing Loss in Women Coincides with Estrogen Drop, Study Says

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Estrogen is a hormonal multi-tasker in women, contributing to roles as memory storage and bone growth. Now a South Korean study confirms yet another role for the hormone: It may be involved in hearing sensitivity. Researchers found that when estrogen levels start to slide at menopause, so does hearing.

In a study of more than 1,800 women older than 49, researchers at the University of Ulsan in Seoul found that hearing loss was most common in the older women. That’s no surprise, considering that about a third of people older than 65 experience some hearing loss. But they also found that though all the post-menopausal women had low estrogen levels, 11.6% of those in the group with the least estrogen had hearing loss, compared with 2.8% of those with the most estrogen.

Though other studies have indicated that estrogen-related bone loss from key ear structures could explain hearing problems in older women, this study didn’t find that to be true. Spine and leg bone density studies were done on all the women and did not appear to be related. Other studies suggest the chemicals that transmit messages in the brain many be affected by estrogen.

A small number of women were on hormone replacement therapy, but there were not enough women in the group to enable the researchers to know if it prevented hearing loss. (Obstetrics and Gyneology 2002:99:726-730)

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