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The effect of female sex hormones on hearing and tinnitus.

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

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Dr K Kluk Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Sex hormones fluctuate in level in women, both during the lifespan and during the ovarian cycle. Recent research suggests that oestrogen is neuroprotective, and may affect auditory function. Tinnitus may arise from the amplification of neural responses in the auditory system (increase in central gain), which might occur to compensate for the loss of neurons. Changes in central gain lead to the amplification of random activity, which can mistakenly be interpreted as sounds.

The aims of this project are:
• To investigate the relationship between oestrogen, hearing loss and tinnitus (the perception of a phantom sound)
• To determine the effect of oestrogen on tinnitus.

The hypotheses are:
• Oestrogen levels affect the onset of hearing loss and tinnitus throughout the lifespan. Women would have milder losses and tinnitus than men, with a later onset that correlates with age at menopause.

• Changes in oestrogen levels during the ovarian cycle influence the severity of tinnitus before menopause. Changes in tinnitus caused by fluctuations in central gain will be related to the ovarian cycle phase and to oestrogen levels.

In the first project, there will be a quantitative assessment of the relationship between sex, age at menopause and severity of loss/tinnitus in the large-scale UK database Biobank. Projects 2 and 3 will include weekly estimates of: central gain and spontaneous activity for listeners with and without tinnitus; tinnitus severity using questionnaires, controlling for anxiety; phase in the ovarian cycle using menses and ovulation dates and oestrogen levels.

The expected outcome of this project is increased understanding of the protective influence of oestrogen on the auditory system, and the mechanisms underlying tinnitus and to development of a new objective method to study variations of central gain within a given subject during the ovarian cycle. It also has the potential to influence a new generation of tinnitus interventions based on hormonal therapies.

Entry Requirements:

Candidates are expected to hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a related area / subject. Candidates with experience in Audiology or with an interest in hearing are encouraged to apply.

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor.

For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website (

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.


da Silva Carneiro C, Figueiredo de Almeida AA, Ribas A, K Kluk, Oliveira Lima D, Menezes Guedes Dias de Araújo A, Augusto de Holanda Ferreira D, Lopes Martins M, Mendonça Maia Wanderley Cruz Freitas T, Raquel Diniz de Rosa M (2018) Hormones and Auditory Perception: Study of Dichotic Listening in Women during the Menstrual Cycle, International archives of otorhinolaryngology 23(1) – 070-076, DOI: 10.1055/s-0038-1626701

Marmel F, Perugia M, Kluk K (2018) Exploring the Use of Iterative Recordings of Frequency-Following Responses to Uncover Hidden Hearing Loss. Acta Acustica united with Acustica. 104, 5, p. 878-882; DOI: 10.3813/AAA.919257

BinKhamis G, Bell S, Prendergast G, O’Driscoll M, Kluk K (2018) Speech Auditory Brainstem Responses: Effects of Background, Stimulus Duration, Consonant-Vowel, and Number of Epochs. Ear and Hearing. Ear Hear. doi: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000648

G Prendergast, W Tu, H Guest, R Millman, Kluk K, S Couth, K Munro, C Plack (2018) Supra-threshold auditory brainstem response amplitudes in humans: Test-retest reliability, electrode montage and noise exposure. Hearing Research, 364, 38-47;

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