For women, menopause brings a variety of changes and health challenges. One study shows a link between menopause and accelerated hearing loss. Researchers in Sweden measured the hearing of 104 women of menopausal age and repeated the measurements almost eight years later. After analyzing the results, they found menopause may promote a more rapid decline in hearing, especially among women who don’t take hormone replacement therapy.
While it’s uncertain why hearing changes after menopause, some experts believe estrogen plays a role in auditory health. Estrogen levels decline after menopause and research shows estrogen is actively involved in the processing of sound and its interpretation by the brain. With more women choosing to forgo hormone replacement therapy due to health concerns, hearing loss among post-menopausal women could increase even more.
It’s not clear if hormone replacement therapy is beneficial, since some women have experienced sudden loss of hearing upon starting hormone replacement therapy. So, taking hormone replacement therapy for hearing protection isn’t justified at this time. Still, there’s evidence that estrogen is important for auditory health and levels of this hormone drops dramatically after menopause.
What can you do to protect your hearing? First, get a baseline hearing test as menopause approaches so you can follow changes in your hearing acuity over time. Secondly, take measures to protect your ears from unnecessary noise. When you use loud appliances, machinery, power tools, the lawn mower or any other noise-making instruments or equipment, protect your ears with properly-placed ear plugs. Keep the volume down when you listen to music, and don’t use ear buds or headphones that place sound too close to your eardrum for long periods of time.
Hederstierna, C., Hultcrantz, M., Collins, A., & Rosenhall, U. (2007). Hearing in women at menopause. Prevalence of hearing loss, audiometric configuration and relation to hormone replacement therapy. Acta Otolaryngologica, 127(2), 149-155.
Strachan, D. (1996). Sudden sensorineural deafness and hormone replacement therapy. The Journal of Laryngology and Otology, 110(12), 1148-1150. doi:10.1017/S0022215100135984