Progestin linked to hearing loss in older women

Elderly women who received progestin as part of hormone replacement therapy have poorer hearing than do women who didn’t get progestin, a new study finds.

Researchers tested the hearing of 124 women ages 60 to 86. Of these, 30 had received estrogen alone, 32 got combination therapy including estrogen and progestin, and 62 didn’t take either hormone. The women who had received hormones took them for 5 to 35 years.

The scientists analyzed the women’s hearing in several tests, including one that gauges problems discerning speech amid background noise—a common complaint among elderly people. The women who had received either no hormones or estrogen alone fared significantly better, on average, on all the tests than did those who had received progestin, the researchers report in the Sept. 19 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It’s unclear how progestin might affect hearing, says study coauthor Robert D. Frisina, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

He notes that the combination therapy delivers estrogen and progestin in regular doses every day. “That timing is completely different from normal pregnancy or menstrual cycles,” during which the hormone concentrations are elevated some days and not others, Frisina says.

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