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Hearing Loss :: Hormone therapy tied to hearing loss in older women

The hormone progestin, as a component of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) following menopause, appears to exacerbate deficits in hearing sensitivity and auditory speech processing, according to a research team at the Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York.

“Sensory declines in elderly women, in this case exacerbated by progestin, can significantly interfere with communication abilities, including speech and hearing, professional and economic productivity, family relations, and quality of life,” write the researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Robert D. Frisina and colleagues used a “rigorous battery of classical and state-of-the art hearing tests assessing both the peripheral (ear) and central (brain) auditory systems,” to compare the effects of estrogen alone, estrogen plus progestin, and no HRT (control) on women ages 60 to 86 years.

Among the 124 subjects, 30 were treated with estrogen alone, 32 with estrogen plus progestin, and 62 served as controls. HRT had been used for 5 to 35 years.

Results of pure-tone audiometry tests revealed that subjects taking progestin and estrogen had poorer thresholds for all frequencies relative to estrogen alone or the control group. Poorer results were also seen in the progestin and estrogen group on a number of other hearing tests.

The results do not confirm the hypothesis that estrogen alone protects the auditory system, the investigators note, since none of the tests demonstrated significantly different results between the estrogen and the control groups.

Based on their findings, the team recommends better sensory testing during drug development, especially for drugs intended for use by older individuals.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 4, 2006.


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