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Scientists raise caution about effects of HRT on hearing

A small pilot study funded by the National Institutes of Health suggests that women who undergo hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) may run the risk of diminished hearing. Depending on the measure, HRT recipients on average did anywhere from 10 to 30 percent worse on hearing tests than women who had not received HRT, says Robert D. Frisina, Ph.D., professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Frisina and colleagues from the International Center for Hearing and Speech Research (ICHSR), an NIH-funded group of scientists from the University of Rochester and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology, presented the work this week at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology in Daytona, Fla.

The scientists used three tests to compare the hearing of 32 women between the ages of 60 and 86 who had had hormone therapy to 32 other women who had not. While the HRT group performed more poorly across the board, it was in complex settings such as the ability to decipher a sentence while listening to someone amid a loud backdrop, like the cacophony at a cocktail party that the HRT group fared worst.

"It's important to alert women that there could be another significant side effect of hormone-replacement therapy," says Frisina. "We know these findings clearly apply to the 64 women we studied. What we can't say, from such a small number of people, is the extent to which they apply to everyone. A much larger study needs to be done.

"These results are very surprising. We thought hormones would help women hear better, because of the presence of estrogen receptors in the ear. This is the opposite of what we were expecting."

The HRT group performed most poorly on a test aimed at measuring not just how well the ear actually detects a sound, but also how well the brain processes that information. A large portion of age-related hearing loss, called pr
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Contact: Tom Rickey
trickey@admin.rochester.edu
585-275-7954
University of Rochester Medical Center
24-Feb-2004


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