If two healthy babies are born, one male and one female, both with normal hearing, would you be able to predict which one is more likely to experience hearing loss later in their lifetime? While you may assume that these two newborns have the same odds for experiencing hearing loss, research has found that to not be true.
In fact, research shows that men are more likely than women to experience hearing loss. In a 2008 study from Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that the risk for hearing loss was five times greater in men than in women. They also learned that both age and race factor into this difference. The gap between hearing loss rates in men and women begin around age 30, and white men are the most likely to experience hearing loss.
While it may seem that men are destined to have a greater likelihood of hearing loss simply due to gender, that is not the case. Research has not found any biological difference between men and women that would cause differing rates of hearing loss. Rather, environmental factors seem to play the biggest role in whether a person will experience hearing loss, regardless of gender.
One factor that researchers believe contributes to the hearing loss rate difference in men and women is occupational hearing loss. Jobs that involve extreme levels of noise and can thus result in hearing loss include construction, carpentry, manufacturing, mining, agriculture, and military. While women are present in all of these occupations, there are more men in these jobs than women. This means that more men than women are at risk for occupational hearing loss.
The law requires that workers be provided with ear protection when they are in conditions with unsafe noise volumes. However, a large number of men neglect to properly and consistently use this protection, resulting in exposure to extreme noise from the equipment and environment. If you believe that noise in your workplace poses a danger to your hearing health, be sure to speak with management.
Other behavioral risk factors also contribute to the higher rates of hearing loss among men. Certain health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, have all been linked to hearing loss. So have health habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. These issues are more common in men than in women.
Furthermore, another study found that medication use can contribute to early hearing loss in men. The study conducted by the American Journal of Medicine determined that regular use of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as other pain relievers like acetaminophen, can lead to hearing loss in men under the age of 60.
While research has established that men are more likely to experience hearing loss for the reasons discussed above, many men with hearing loss are reluctant to seek treatment. Men are more likely than women to avoid being fitted with a hearing aid, possibly because of a stigma against hearing aid use, or because they worry that wearing a hearing aid would be seen as a sign of weakness.
However, it is essential that hearing loss be treated as soon as it is diagnosed. By wearing hearing aids, both men and women can prevent the early onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as lower their risk for depression, anxiety, and falls.
Interestingly, research has found that hearing loss tends to appear differently in men than in women. Male hearing loss usually affects the ability to hear high-frequency sounds first. In contrast, women have more difficulty hearing and understanding lower frequencies. This difference can result in difficulty in communication, especially in couples.
Regardless of your gender or age, it is important to receive proper hearing care. We welcome you to contact our audiology practice today for more information about the hearing loss differences between men and women, and to schedule your next visit.