Hearing and the menopause: changes and symptoms you need to know
Wondering if your hearing has changed since menopause? Navigating the menopause can be a tricky time of life for many women, Being aware of the various symptoms can help you navigate this period better.
“The link between hearing and the menopause is complex and needs more research, but studies show that reduced oestrogen levels after menopause may be associated with hearing loss in women,” says women’s health expert, Dr Shirin Lakhani.
We consulted the experts to find out how exactly the menopause influences our hearing and how we can best support ourselves.
How menopause can impact our hearing
Some women experience a ringing in their ears as they approach or go through the menopause. The reason for this can be due to fluctuating levels of hormones.
“It’s possible that your hearing may change as you reach menopause due to drops in levels of oestrogen, which plays such an important role throughout the body,” says Shirin. “We have oestrogen receptors in our ear cells and the auditory pathway. It’s likely that changes in blood flow to the cochlear (the inner ear tube) affect our hearing.”
The types of hearing problems that women experience during the menopause include:
- A ringing, buzzing, or throbbing in the ears
- Blocked ears
- Sensitive or ‘hot ears’
- Reduced hearing
- Painful ears or earache
How do I know that my hearing loss is menopause related?
“Research is still ongoing with regard to the drop of natural hormone levels and hearing loss,” says audiologist and the Director of Professional Standards at Boots Hearingcare, Karen Shepherd. “However, what is clear is that the typical menopausal age also coincides with the time that early signs of naturally occurring mild hearing loss may also manifest.”
If you’re wondering whether or not your hearing loss might be related to the menopause, then it’s best to visit an audiologist or your GP. They should be able to refer you to a specialist.
“Audiologists can conduct tests to get a benchmark of an individual’s hearing ability and monitor this over time, especially if there is any concern over the impact of pharmacological interventions,” says Karen.
How to support your hearing during the menopause
“Many women feel that their hearing suffers during midlife because they’re not hearing as well and they cannot ‘attend’ to the finer detail of dialogue,” says Karen. “This slight loss of hearing can cause many women to suffer auditory fatigue, as they find that they need to concentrate on processing information.
“This can be challenging for anyone, but when coupled with other menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, physical tiredness, and brain fog, this effort is compounded and will interfere with our ability to keep up with the speed of communication.”
Some women also find that certain lifestyle factors help to improve their hearing. This inlcudes reducing the amount of salt, alcohol, and caffeine in their diet. These can impact the mucus membrane in the ears, which impacts overall hearing quality.
HRT can also be an option as it improves the levels of oestrogen in the body and the overall impact of menopause symptoms on health and wellbeing.