Changes in auditory perception in the menstrual cycle

Br J Audiol. 1978 Nov;12(4):105-18. doi: 10.3109/03005367809078862.


In a attempt to specify the critical functional components involved in the menstrual fluctuation of the upper frequency limit of the binaural beat we have obtained evidence of better performance in a variety of tasks at period and mid-cycle than at other times. These tasks include detection of physical beating, low-frequency octave matching, and lateralisation of clicks having interaural time delays in the 100 musec region. Continuous pure-tone frequency discrimination did not show a significant cyclical pattern overall but there was a tendency for low-frequency discrimination to show the described pattern. An attempt is made to reconcile some of these results with those of Wynn (1973) on absolute pitch, in terms of possible physiological and biochemical correlates. Three conclusions can be drawn: (1) The representations both of low-frequency tones and of the interaural time differences involved in some localisation tasks are particularly susceptible to alteration by the biochemical changes of the menstrual cycle: (2) The changes underlying perceptual variations are multiple, and inevitably confounded in any single task. (3) The distinction between the sensitivity and bias parameters of performance appears to be valuable in specifying menstrual effects. Several further lines of enquiry are suggested, but methodological difficulties in cycle research make it likely that more progress will come from better understanding of the physiological bases of psychoacoustic tasks using other methods, rather than from investigating natural menstrual effects.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Audiometry / methods
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menstruation*
  • Pitch Discrimination