Women with menopause tend to wonder if asking for hormone replacement therapy might help relieve their symptoms. In some cases, the doctor might recommend it to soften menopausal issues that are interfering with their lives. While taking hormones can dampen some of those hard to handle side effects, the treatment doesn’t come without risks. For decades, medical science has been researching the effects of replacement hormones on a woman’s system. One of the more recent studies found that taking hormones for too long might even lead to hearing loss.
What does menopause mean?
It’s a phrase referenced often but not one every woman fully understands. Put simply; menopause signals the end of menstrual cycles. It’s a normal part of the aging process but a difficult time for many ladies. When periods stop, the body produces less reproductive hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone.
That decline in hormone production brings with it some rather unpleasant side effects such as:
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Thinning hair
- Dry skin
- Sleep problems
Doctors may try to counteract these symptoms by prescribing HRT or hormone replacement therapy.
What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Hormone replacement therapy is a therapeutic approach to managing menopausal symptoms. There are different formulas used for HRT, but the standard prescription will include either:
- Progesterone and estrogen
- Estrogen alone
The goal is to increase the number of essential hormones to relieve the symptoms of menopause.
The Risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy
There are some real benefits to hormone replacement therapy, especially used short-term. For example, it can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and make skin look healthier. There may be a downside to the use of HRT, too, though. There is somewhat disputed research that indicates a connection between HRT and breast cancer. Long-term use is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, as well.
Medical science continues to find connections between hearing loss and hormone replacement therapy. Women typically have a lower risk of hearing loss as they age. In fact, men are twice as likely to experience age-related hearing loss. Of the women that do develop it, how many also undergo hormone replacement therapy?
In 2006, Robert D. Frisina, Ph.D., published a study in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences that an estimated 10 to 30 percent of women studied have hearing loss that was related to the use of one specific hormone. The study author explained there is a greater risk for women that already have minor hearing loss, as well.
The 2006 study was ignored by some in the medical community, though, because it was so small. A 2017 report published in Menopause looked at existing research provided by the Nurses’ Health Study II to determine if they could discover a more obvious connection between HRT and loss of hearing in women.
The 2017 Study
The scientists involved in this 2017 study collected and reviewed data from 81,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study II. At the start of this large-scale analysis project, the participants were between the ages of 27 to 44. The researchers followed them for 22 years while asking women to self-report about their hearing and HRT use.
Of the 81,000 women that took part in the study, around 23 percent indicated some obvious hearing loss as they grew older. They all took therapeutic HRT that included either just estrogen or estrogen plus progestogen. Based on this information, the study authors decided that the use of oral HRT in postmenopausal women for a long period would likely increase their risk of hearing loss.
Does This Mean Women Avoid Hormone Treatments?
That’s a question only a physician or medical practitioner can answer. The latest research does show an increased risk of some hearing loss with HRT use, but, it’s inconclusive since not all women experienced the same thing. Hormone replacement therapy isn’t the right choice for every woman for a number of reasons. Give your doctor all the facts when discussing HRT therapy. If you suspect you already have some hearing loss, you need to mention it. Consider getting a professional hearing test to use as a baseline, too, so you can monitor your hearing as you grow older whether you take HRT or not.