Man being fitted with a hearing aid by a woman hearing aid expert.

At What Age do Men Experience Hearing Loss?

Published: March 5, 2021

Updated: March 22, 2022

Men are twice as likely to experience hearing loss and they are less likely to talk about it, seek help or describe the true difficulty they experience. Men generally prefer a more direct approach, only disclosing that they have a hearing loss, but not any further details or suggestions that could help with their communication breakdown. It has been found that adults around 70 and older are more likely to report hearing problems than those aged 40 to 69.

Hearing loss can happen at any age.  You can be born with a hearing loss or something can happen along the way that might cause you to lose some of your hearing acuity. It is, however, well documented that hearing loss is associated with older age. Some hearing losses go unnoticed for a long time, only to surface when your lifestyle has changed. 

All men and women might suffer from a degree of hearing impairment at some point.  It’s not easy to know when to be on the lookout for hearing loss or when to expect your hearing to deteriorate, which is why it’s important to be aware of your hearing ability from a young age and openly communicate about any difficulty hearing early on.  Men especially should note that from age 12 they are more likely to experience a hearing loss than a woman.  

Causes of hearing loss 

Children

There are various genetic and acquired causes of hearing loss in children.  The childhood illnesses most likely to cause a loss are, meningitis, measles, encephalitis, chickenpox, flu, and mumps. Genetic causes may the reason for a loss from birth, where acquired causes can happen at any time after birth.

Children are often also more prone to ear infections than adults. As time goes on, recurrent ear infections can take a toll on a child’s ears, leading to some degree of permanent hearing loss.   Studies have found that boys are more prone to getting ear infections than girls.  Boys need to visit healthcare professionals more often for the treatment of ear infections, and sometimes this includes surgical intervention. It is crucial for all children with middle ear infections to get treatment as soon as possible to reduce their risk of developing a permanent hearing loss.

Listeners often become conditioned to loud sounds like music and traffic. Many men, from a young age, prefer sounds to be louder.  They may more frequently be exposed to social noise and prefer that music or other external sounds be adjusted to higher levels.   It has been noted that boys prefer and tolerate a higher level of background noise in the classroom compared to girls. They also prefer that the educator speak louder.  

Teenagers and 20+

In quiet situations, men are more likely to listen to music at higher levels which can be potentially harmful (85 dBA).  These choices can eventually have a negative impact and lead to potential hearing loss. Modern-day personal listening devices have become a particular threat to the hearing health of the younger generation. Improved battery life on personal listening devices like mobile phones means that the devices can be used for longer periods of time which increases the risk of noise-induced hearing loss, especially when using earbuds. In these cases, exposure to harmful levels of sound may not have a significant impact early on in life but it has been found that a hearing loss might become more prevalent around the age of 20 to 45 years.

Ages 20-69

Men around the age of 20 to 69 are more likely to have hearing loss, especially in the higher speech frequency range. Studies have found a higher prevalence of bothersome tinnitus in males.  However, the prevalence of tinnitus is higher in older, rather than younger men.  At a younger age, it is not just personal listening devices that start to impact men’s hearing.  Their occupational and lifestyle choices can have a significant impact on their hearing abilities in later life.  Men are often more frequently exposed to higher levels of noise on a day-to-day basis compared to females.  That is due to them being more likely to have a military career or a job in construction or manufacturing. Factory workers, policemen, firefighters, and farmworkers, men who work with noisy equipment, take part in activities like shooting or hunting, attend large and noisy sports events, ride motorcycles, a modified truck, or have a hobby like carpentry, are all likely to suffer a hearing difficulty down the line. Whilst both men and women may share these jobs or activities, and noise-induced hearing loss can occur in both, men who work in these environments are nearly 3 times more likely to develop a hearing loss.

Gender does play a role in health-related concerns. It has been found that men tend to fall ill at a younger age and have more chronic illnesses than women. Research has shown that hearing loss can be linked with health problems like diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression. They have discovered that men may be more likely than women to develop type 2 diabetes as they are biologically more susceptible.  The regular use of aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications among men under 60 has also been found to profoundly affect some men’s hearing. Between the ages of 45 and 69, 47% of the men have used non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.  These medications are regularly prescribed for a variety of conditions, including arthritis, headaches, and sports injuries. Men between the ages of 15 to 35 are more prone to sports injuries, and in turn, this may lead them to take more pain relief medication.  

Being aware of your hearing abilities and inabilities from a young age is important. Men often avoid getting help with their hearing and choose to get by without a hearing aid, wanting to address the issue later in life. Hearing loss can have a significant impact on their life, relationships, general health, and even cognitive health however and the earlier it is detected, the better. Leaving a hearing loss untreated can lead to social isolation, depression, dementia, and reduced physical activity.  

Addressing a hearing loss as soon as you become aware of it, especially at a young age, can improve your overall quality of life, work prospects, and relationships.

Image of post writer Marcellé Swanepoel.

Written by Marcellé Swanepoel

B. Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology

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