How your hearing ability varies across your monthly cycle

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How your hearing ability varies across your monthly cycle


Did you know that as you age, your ability to hear high frequencies decreases?

I just tested this on myself and my husband using a free online hearing test here and discovered that I can hear high frequencies up to 16 kHz (evidently pretty good for someone over 25), but my husband can only hear up to 10 kHz (which is common among musicians who give their hearing quite the auditory beating).

Well, turns out, age isn’t the only factor when it comes to being able to hear certain sounds.

A new, small study in the journal International Archives of Otorhinolaryngology reveals that your ability to hear changes according to where you are in your monthly cycle.

How hormones affect hearing

Researchers gave 10 naturally cycling women hearing tests in each week of their cycle–Week 1 (spanning Day 1, the first day of your period, through Day 7), Week 2 (Day 8 through ovulation), Week 3 (the 8 days following ovulation) and Week 4 (the final 6 days of your cycle).

What they discovered:

Your hearing is most sensitive during your Week 2. 

Your hearing is least sensitive during your Week 1 and Week 4.

This means you may have more difficulty hearing people talk in crowded rooms or during loud events during your least sensitive cycle weeks.

And, you may find it easier to hear people talk despite background noise during your more sensitive hearing weeks.

The hormone-hearing connection

Why the change in hearing ability across your cycle? The researchers explain that the inner ear contains receptors for both estrogen and progesterone, so when the levels of these hormones fluctuate, they impact certain parts of the ear that process sound.

Specifically, when estrogen is high during your Week 2, it improves sensitivity to sound. When it’s low, it decreases sensitivity to sound.

Progesterone plays a role, too: When this hormone climbs in your Week 3, it decreases sensitivity to sound.

2 easy ways to hear better all cycle long

Want to be able to hear people more clearly when they talk–especially in noisy environments–no matter where you are in your monthly cycle? Try this:

1. Get the person to sit or stand on your dominant hand’s side:

Sitting or standing side-by-side with someone, for instance, while watching a concert or parade? If you’re right-handed, get the person to be on your right. If you’re left-handed, get the person to be on your left. Research shows that right-handed folks process language with the left hemisphere of their brain, which is accessed through the right ear. The reverse is true in lefties. By maneuvering yourself so the person is on the side with your “good” ear, you give her or him easier access to the language-processing part of your brain, helping you pick up on words you might otherwise miss.

2. Tilt your good ear toward the speaker when face to face:

Speaking to someone from across a table or listening to someone give a speech on a stage? Angle your head so that you’re facing your “good” ear (see tip above) in their direction as much as possible. A 2016 study shows this increases how much you can hear the person say even when there’s background noise. In a situation where you can’t tilt your head too far without seeming obvious, for instance, during a job interview? Even a slight angle helps improve hearing, the same study shows.

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