Researchers in the U.S. are suggesting that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may possibly exacerbate hearing deficits in women who take it following the menopause.
According to a research team at the Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York, a component of HRT, the hormone progestin, can significantly interfere with communication abilities, including speech and hearing in elderly women.
The researchers say this can have an impact on professional and economic productivity, family relations and the quality of life.
The team, led by Dr. Robert D. Frisina arrived at this conclusion after conducting a rigorous battery of credited hearing tests which assessed both the peripheral and central auditory systems.
The team were performing a comparison of the effects of estrogen alone, estrogen plus progestin, and no HRT on women ages 60 to 86 years.
In a study involving 124 women, 30 were on estrogen alone, 32 on estrogen plus progestin, and 62 served as controls and were not on HRT. HRT had been used for between 5 and 35 years.
The researchers found that the results of the tests revealed that women taking progestin and estrogen had poorer thresholds for all frequencies relative to estrogen alone or the control group and poorer results were also seen in the progestin and estrogen group on a number of other hearing tests.
The researchers say however that the results do not confirm that estrogen alone protects the auditory system as none of the tests demonstrated significantly different results between the estrogen and the control groups.
The team says better sensory testing needs to be done during the development of drugs in particular for those intended for use by seniors.
The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 4, 2006.