September 4, 2006

Hormone therapy tied to hearing loss in older women

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - 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.