Hearing Changes

Published: September 1, 2015

Contributed by Karen Giblin- Red Hot Mamas Medical Expert 

At menopause, many of us are caught by surprise when we go to a local restaurant and suddenly we can’t read the menu.  We are hit with that “vision loss thing” which sends us off rapidly to the eye doctor.  We suddenly buy one or two pairs of eyeglasses.  I’ve always thought it would be nice if restaurants supplied eyeglasses to those of us who have reached a “certain age” and are sitting at their tables squinting while looking at the menu.  But, that is not the case.

There’s another surprise that sometimes catches us off guard.  I’d  like to know how many of you can relate to going out to dinner and when the waiter comes to your table to explain “the specials” for dinner that evening, you look at him/her with a blank stare because you haven’t heard a thing?  Many of us, including myself, have to ask the waiter to repeat “the specials” over again.  Yes, you might initially think it could be a memory thing, but often, it is the fact that you are experiencing hearing changes.

Yes, that’s something that we may not even think about but it does occur around the time of menopause.   In fact, there is evidence that the loss of estrogen at menopause may trigger hearing loss in women, starting in the left ear.  In the United States today, as many as one-third of women in their 50s have some degree of hearing loss, along with nearly two-thirds of women in their 60s.  There is a significant link between hearing loss and other health issues that affect our overall physical and mental health. Ignoring hearing loss can negatively impact you’re your quality of life, social interactions, and productivity.

Hearing loss also may be caused by a number of different causes which include:

  • Conductive hearing loss (because of problems with the ear canal, ear drum, or middle ear and its tiny bones).
  • Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) (due to problems of the inner ear).
  • Mixed hearing loss (a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss).  It may be caused by severe head injury, chronic infection, or from a genetic disorder.

The most common causes overall include:

  • Earwax accumulation
  • Previous exposure to noise (remember that concert of ….?)
  • Aging
  • Ear infections

Here are a few ways which you can protect your ears:

  • Limit your exposure to loud noise e.g. turn the volume down on the television and radio
  • Wear hearing protection (ear plugs or ear muffs) if you are engaging in loud outdoor activities (e.g. mowing the lawn)
  • Have your hearing tested regularly

Lots of people don’t notice they are experiencing hearing loss.  But in some cases family members notice it first. If your loved ones bring to your attention that you aren’t hearing as well as you used to, you need to see your clinician.

Estrogen appears to have a protective effect on hearing function.  You might consider discussing with your clinician whether taking hormone therapy would have a positive effect in your hearing ability or not.