Can Hormone Replacement Therapy Raise Your Risk of Hearing Loss?

The sad fact is that our risk of hearing loss increases as we age. But can hormone replacement therapy make it happen sooner? A new study investigates.

hormonesImage Point Fr/ShutterstockNo one wants to imagine going deaf, but hearing loss affects approximately 28 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 69, according to data from the National Institutes of Health. And as we age, our risk increases. Because women’s natural hormone levels drop after menopause, it was previously believed that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) might help protect against age-related hearing loss in women. A new study calls that theory into question.

The study, published in Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society indicates that women who take HRT for menopause symptoms actually increase their risk of hearing loss, and the longer a woman uses HRT, the higher the risk. The study also demonstrated that the older a woman is at the time of menopause, the higher her risk of her hearing being affected by the HRT. “The finding from this observational study that women who underwent menopause at a later age and used oral hormone therapy had greater hearing loss was unexpected,” JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the North American Menopause Society, said on behalf of the researchers.

For the study, Sharon Ellen Curhan, MD, an Instructor in Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and her team reviewed data reported by nearly 81,000 United States women between the ages of 27 and 44 in response to a national survey (the NIH-funded Nurse’s Health Study II) between 1991 and 2013. And while the study sought associations between loss of hearing and the use of HRT, and between loss of hearing and the age of onset of menopause, it doesn’t clearly establish causation in either case—so there’s some connection, but it’s too soon to say for sure that HRT speeds age-related hearing loss. “It should lead to more testing in a randomized, clinical trial,” Pinkerton says.

Many women use hormone replacement therapy to improve their quality of life after menopause, including to protect against age-related hearing decline, but Dr. Curhan’s findings could prompt some women to reevaluate the risks and benefits. You also might want to consider these natural remedies for menopause symptoms.

We’ve got answers to all your questions about embarassing menopause symptoms.

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Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers health, fitness, yoga, and lifestyle, among other topics. An author of crime fiction, Lauren's book The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.