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Hormone Therapy May Damage Hearing

Study: Hormone Replacement Therapy With Progestin Harms Hearing; Some Skeptical

Unanswered Questions

Frisina, who is associate director of the International Center for Hearing and Speech Research at the Rochester Institute of Technology, says his research team will continue to study the impact of progestin on hearing.

Among the most important unanswered questions, he says, is whether hearing loss reverses with discontinuation of treatment and the impact of cumulative dosage.

"I would guess that the less time a women is on this therapy the better," he says.

Room for Doubt

Thirty-two women who took combined hormone therapy with estrogen and progestin were included in the study, along with 30 women who took estrogen alone, and 62 women who did not take any hormone therapy.

The researchers worked to exclude women who had taken other medications associated with hearing impairment. But they relied on the women, who were no younger than 60 and as old as 86, to remember if they had taken such drugs.

"It isn't likely that an 86-year-old woman, or a woman of any age, will be able to look back and remember every medication she has taken," Klein tells WebMD. "So it is almost impossible to know if the findings were influenced by the use of other medications."

Klein, who is also deputy editor for the journal Women's Health, adds that the wide range of hormone usage times among women in the study makes it "almost impossible" to accurately determine if the hearing loss was treatment related.

The hormone therapy users in the study took the treatment for as little as five years and as long as 35 years.

Finally, Klein questions the researchers' failure to include information on route of hormone administration and the hormone doses given to women in the study.

"Years ago, we typically used higher doses of hormone therapy," she says. "Now we know that we can use a fraction of the dose that we once used."

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