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Estrogen & Hearing

June 16, 2009

A lack of estrogen may cause hearing loss.


The sound of estrogen….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The hormone estrogen is responsible for many important functions in the body, including breast development in women. Most people don’t associate estrogen with hearing. But University of Rochester neuroscientist Raphael Pinaud says deficient estrogen can lead to severe hearing loss. He and his colleagues gave extra estrogen to songbirds, whose brain structures for processing sounds are very similar to our own. This instantly increased the sensitivity of a group of auditory neurons, improving the birds’ hearing. In another experiment, the researchers inhibited the hormone in those neurons, which greatly impaired the birds’ hearing.

RAPHAEL PINAUD (University of Rochester):
This tells us that hearing impairment related to lower estrogen is something that can occur entirely in the brain, not just due to problems of the inner ear.

He says estrogen therapy holds promise as a treatment for hearing loss in the future. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.