Exploring the impact of menopause on ears

How does menopause affect your ears? Find out why, plus read essential tips to take good care of your ears in perimenopause and menopause.

When we mention Menopause, the most common symptom that comes to mind is hot flashes. Right? That’s because eight of ten women experience hot flashes as they are transitioning into Menopause. However, that’s not only what defines Menopause. There are other lesser-known signs as well. One of them is issues about your ears.

Many women often mention changes in their hearing in their mid-life. While some complain of ringing or buzzing sounds in their ears, a few often mention their hearing getting impacted.

What’s the reason behind the hearing and other ear-related problems in Menopause? Is it the hormonal fluctuations, or could the reason be something else? Before we get to understanding the impact of Menopause on ears, here’s an introduction about myself.

I am Dr. Karen Pike. I have had a long stint as a board-certified ER doctor. I have always wanted to research the intricate details of Menopause. While interacting with patients, I came to realize that around nine of the ten women I met had no awareness regarding Menopause. That prompted me to start Simply Menopause. Now, let’s get started.

Why does menopause affect your ears? 

Animal and human studies have deduced that low estrogen levels significantly impair hearing since they are likely to alter the cochlear blood flow. Estrogen receptors exist in several body parts, including your inner ears. Low estrogen levels cause the mucus membranes to dry out. When there are alterations in the inner ear, it’s not only your hearing that is affected. You’ll experience changes in your balance also.

How does menopause affect your ears?

You could feel the effect of the hormonal fluctuations on your ears in various ways. Let us take a look at some of them.

Blocked ears 

When there’s increased dryness in the ears due to low estrogen levels, adequate wax production is affected immensely. If increased wax accumulates in your middle ear, it could clog your ears, eventually affecting your hearing. The common signs of blocked ears include feelings of fullness in your ear, earache, and a ringing or buzzing noise.

A warm compress for around ten minutes would provide temporary relief if you have blocked or clogged ears.

Tinnitus

If you aren’t aware of tinnitus, it is the medical term used to explain the ringing or buzzing sensation in your ears. In some women, Menopause could bring in tinnitus. Whereas those already having this condition may find their symptoms of tinnitus aggravated when transitioning into Menopause.

If you are thinking about why Menopause causes tinnitus, here’s the explanation. Low estrogen levels negatively impact circulation. This, in turn, hampers the blood vessels present in your ears, resulting in tinnitus. Some of the common signs of tinnitus include sensations of varying noises from your ears like:

  • Buzzing
  • Clicking
  • Humming
  • Roaring
  • Hissing

Menopause isn’t solely responsible for tinnitus. There are other reasons also, like high blood pressure, head or neck injuries, side effects of any medication, etc. So, if you have a recurring tinnitus problem to the extent that it affects your daily living, consult your healthcare provider immediately.

There have been speculations that women transitioning into Menopause could have tinnitus as a side effect when going through HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). However, this isn’t proven, and some studies have shown that HRT effectively reduces incidences of tinnitus in the long run.

Ear ache 

When the inner ears get dried due to the dip in estrogen levels, it is natural for you to experience frequent earaches because of the inflammation and infection. Earache could be an associated symptom when you have blocked or ringing ears.

Itchy ears 

Itchy ears in Menopause could be another consequence of reduced estrogen levels. The dryness of the ears triggers an itching sensation. However, if your ears are itching continuously, do not pass it off as one of those menopausal woes. It could be a symptom of any underlying condition like allergies or fungal infections.

Nothing comes above a doctor’s advice in case of recurring itchy ear issues. However, trying home remedies would help provide some relief for the time being. If itchy ears are due to dry skin, a few drops of oil in each ear will help provide relief. Olive oil is also a good remedy for those having itchy ears because of hearing aids. You could even use mineral oil or coconut oil to relieve itchiness.

Changes in hearing 

Many women often tell me that their hearing isn’t the same as before. It lacks clarity. The majority of them are above 40, and some have even experienced Menopause. So, it’s pretty clear that hormonal fluctuations are responsible for alterations in your hearing levels.

However, that isn’t the only reason behind your hearing being impacted. You may experience hearing difficulty or loss due to viral infections, head or ear trauma, prolonged exposure to loud noises, side effects of medications, etc. So, if you have difficulty hearing for a long time, speak with the doctor before you arrive at any conclusion. There is possibly an issue with your hearing if:

  • You keep asking people to repeat.
  • Having issues following any conversation, particularly over the phone or in a noisy ambiance
  • Have trouble hearing high-pitched noises
  • Need to listen to the television at an increased volume
  • Have earache or ringing ears quite often
  • Experience balance issues or dizziness

How to take care of your ears in menopause? 

If hormonal imbalances are responsible for ear-related issues, you should keep some things in mind to ensure your problems do not aggravate.

  • Eat healthy, and avoid foods high in salt and sugar. Lessen your caffeine intake. Excessive caffeine isn’t a good option for Menopause as it intensifies hot flashes, sleep issues, and other problems.

There isn’t any evidence to suggest the direct effect of caffeine on your hearing. However, caffeine often constricts the blood vessels, restricting blood flow. It may reduce blood supply to your inner ear, triggering hearing issues.

The same goes for alcohol, which you should avoid in Menopause to minimize not just hearing issues but for your overall wellbeing.

  • Keep yourself hydrated. You must be thinking about what water has to do with your ears. Right? Well, there’s a connection. When you do not have sufficient water, you will get dehydrated.

Dehydration affects the inner ears, which contain fluid pivotal in maintaining balance and facilitating hearing. When you aren’t hydrated well, it could impact your hearing. You may even experience a ringing or buzzing sound in your ears, alongside feelings of fullness.

  • Keep your ears protected. You can do the same by limiting exposure to loud sounds. It could majorly affect your hearing. Use earmuffs or earplugs to restrict loud noises.
  • Regular ear checkups by a qualified audiologist are of immense importance. According to the ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association), people between 18 and 40 should get their ears checked every 3-5 years if they do not have any hearing concerns. After 40, you should get your ear tested in 1-3 years. However, if you have trouble hearing or face other ear-related issues, check your ears on a priority basis.

Understand and be aware of your symptoms 

So, that was about the effect menopause may have on your ears. The bottom line is that you must understand and be aware of your symptoms.

If you notice any red flags, consult the doctor immediately. Hormone replacement therapy is said to have a positive impact on your hearing. If you wish to go for the same, consult your doctor to know the kind of therapy that would suit you the best.