Hearing Loss Risk Seen With Hormone Replacement Therapy in New Study

Side effects of hormone replacement therapy drugs, such as Prempro and Premarin, may increase the risk of hearing loss, according to the findings of new research. 

In a study published this month in Menopause, the Journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), researchers indicate that postmenopausal women who used oral hormone therapy medications were more likely to experience hearing loss. In what is often a sign of a causal connection, the findings indicate that the longer the drugs are used, the more likely an individual is to suffer hearing loss problems.

Researchers conducted a prospective cohort study of 80,972 women who took part of the Nurses’ Health Study II, which included women between the ages of 27 and 44 from 1991 to 2013.

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According to the findings, there were 18,558 cases of hearing loss reported among hormone replacement therapy users. The findings indicate that older age increased the risk of hearing loss by about 10%. However, women who took HRT drugs faced a 15% increased risk, and if they took the drugs for longer than 10 years, they faced a 21% increased risk.

“The finding from this observational study that women who underwent menopause at a later age and used oral hormone therapy had greater hearing loss was unexpected but should lead to more testing in a randomized, clinical trial,” Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director, said in a May 10, 2017 press release. “Information about the potential effect on hearing is important to include in a discussion regarding the risks and benefits of hormone therapy for symptomatic menopausal women.”

NAMS notes that the findings go against previous assumptions that HRT could help reduce the risk of hearing loss.

HRT Health Risks

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) involves the use of hormones and progestins to artificially boost hormone levels in women. It is typically used on women undergoing menopause due to surgery or in postmenopausal women to provide relief from symptoms such as hot flashes, irregular menstruation or weight gain. However, it is also commonly used to prevent chronic conditions common in older women, such as osteoporosis.

In 2002, the National Institutes of Health released the results of studies that found women receiving HRT were at higher risk of breast cancer, strokes and heart attacks. The studies, part of the Women’s Health Initiative, sparked a number of hormone replacement therapy lawsuits filed by women who developed breast cancer throughout the United States.

In 2012, another  study using data from the Nurse’s Health Study, found an 88% increase in the risk of breast cancer for women who underwent HRT over a period of 10-15 years. The risk doubled if the women used HRT for 15 to 20 years.

The manufacturers of Prempro, Premarin and other HRT medications have faced thousands of failure to warn lawsuits filed by former users of hormone replacement therapy, which alleged that inadequate warnings were provided about the safety of the medications.

Several juries nationwide have awarded multi-million dollar compensatory damage awards to plaintiffs diagnosed with breast cancer after HRT use, including a number of cases that included punitive damage awards after juries found that drug makers intentionally hid the risks associated with the medications. However, the drug makers have also obtained defense verdicts in a number of cases.

Pfizer agreed to pay out about $1.2 billion to settle 10,000 HRT breast cancer lawsuits in 2012.

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