When it comes to menopause, the old adage “the better to hear you with, m’dear’ no longer applies. In fact, if one is to believe study findings reported a few years back, women start to lose their hearing after the age of 50, which coincidentially corresponds fairly closely with menopause in the majority. It’s true that from a gender standpoint, we may have an ‘ear up’ compared to our male peers, who begin to suffer age related hearing loss as early as age 30. However, comparatively, it appears that women go through a relatively rapid decline in hearing starting with the loss of estrogen. Moreover, the study showed that over a 7 to 8 year time period, women who had only been in menopause less than four years had a greater than expected decline in their hearing, especially in their left ear while those in the ‘pause five to seven years had greater hearing loss in the right ear. This ‘yin/yang’ hearing tended to balance out and slow after 8 to 13 years.
Why does this matter, anyhow?
Well, hearing loss in the left ear is linked with a lower ability to hear sounds in the high frequency range and the extremely rapid loss of this attribute in the first few years of menopause ultimately affects women’s communication abilities. The Midwest Audiology Center in Greenfield WI explains it as follows:
In the English language, vowels are low frequency sounds that bring power to our speech, but contribute less to understanding. Consonants are more mid and high frequency sounds that bring understanding to our language. It is very common to lose high frequency hearing sensitivity at a greater amount than we lose our low frequency hearing sensitivity.
So, when we lose our ability to hear high frequencies, we know when someone is speaking to us but we can’t completely understand what they are saying.
A bit of a dilemma, don’t you think?
Importantly, this appears to occur without prexisting middle ear conditions or undue exposure to noise; in other words, estrogen the good queen turns into estrogen the wicked witch, wreaking havoc by taking away her protective powers. A bubble burst? You betcha.
I can’t offer any solutions at this juncture but I would imagine that the more we can protect our hearing now, the better we may be later in life. Turn down the volume before it turns on you!