Estrogen and hearing: a summary of recent investigations

Acta Otolaryngol. 2006 Jan;126(1):10-4. doi: 10.1080/00016480510038617.


Is the female sex steroid estrogen the key to preserved hearing in the aging human? This question remains unanswered, but hearing loss is more profound in elderly males than females. There are also well-known sex differences in the auditory brainstem response (ABR), i.e. women have shorter latencies than men. Moreover, menopausal women who are administered hormone replacement therapy have slightly better hearing than those who are not, and women with Turner's syndrome (45,X), who are biologically estrogen-deficient, show longer ABR latencies and early presbyacusis. These findings are also supported by animal experiments. When boosted with estrogen or testosterone the non-reproductive female midshipman fish alters its inner ear auditory mechanism so that it can hear the male's hum-like call. If estrogen receptor beta is knocked out in mice, severe progressive hearing loss occurs, leading to early deafness. In apparent contradiction to these findings, there have been case reports suggesting that hormone replacement therapy and oral contraceptive use can lead to hearing loss, but of another type, namely acute sudden deafness. Such contradictory aspects of the action of estrogen are commonly found and may spring from the fact that there are two estrogen receptors, alpha and beta, both of which are present in the inner ear of mice, rats and humans. Knowing how sex steroids can alter hearing ability may give important clues as to how estrogen can preserve hearing in humans. In this review we present a summary of current knowledge about hearing and estrogen.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Batrachoidiformes
  • Ear, Inner / metabolism
  • Estrogens / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem / physiology
  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Presbycusis / etiology*
  • Rats
  • Sex Factors
  • Turner Syndrome / complications
  • Turner Syndrome / metabolism


  • Estrogens