Some hormone replacement therapy may damage hearing

Older women taking certain hormone replacement therapy may suffer hearing damage, scientists report.

A study of 124 postmenopausal women found that those taking hormone replacement therapy that included progestin had poorer speech understanding than women who were not taking hormones or who were using estrogen only.

The findings, by a team led by Dr. Robert D. Frisina at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, are reported in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team previously had reported indications of hearing problems associated with hormone therapy and their new study says progestin is the likely culprit.

The research found problems in the inner ear and in some measures of brain function affecting hearing in women using hormone therapy with progestin, Frisina said in a telephone interview.

Since hearing problems can affect quality of life, including family and business activities, he urges increased hearing testing for women using this therapy.

"We feel this should be added to the list of possible side effects, so when a woman and her doctor make their decision she can weigh this," Frisina said, adding it may be a particular concern for women who already have some hearing loss.

"I tell women to have their hearing tested if they are going to start" hormone replacement therapy, and to have it rechecked every six months, he said. If it starts getting worse they may want to reconsider the dosage or the use of progestin, he said.

Many birth control pills also contain progestin and Frisina said he is not aware of any studies to determine if that has an effect on women's hearing. "It should be studied," he said.

Meanwhile, his next step is to look at women who stop using progestin and see if the hearing damage is reversible.

Not everyone is convinced of the findings, however, reports AP.