The Difference in Hearing Loss in Men and Women

Hearing loss affects each individual in a unique way. But did you know that research has shown that hearing loss may even differ in the way that it affects men and women? Moreover, it has been proven that men are more at risk of developing hearing loss than women. This article will give you an overview of what the hearing loss gap is between men and women as well as the possible causes for these differences.

Risk of hearing loss in men vs. women

A study conducted amongst US adults by Agrawal, Platz, and Niparko (2008) indicated that disabling hearing loss was found in 29 million Americans, with the odds of hearing loss being 5.5 times more in men than in women. The difference found between men and women usually begins around the age of 30 years.

What is the hearing loss gap between men and women?

Men typically present with hearing loss in the higher frequencies first whereas women present more often with a hearing loss in the lower frequencies. This means that a man would usually experience difficulty hearing consonants, high-pitched sounds as well as women’s and children’s voices. On the other hand, a woman will struggle to hear vowels that characteristically have a more round and deep sound. A study conducted in 2010 confirms this, with results indicating better hearing thresholds for women than men at frequencies above 2000 Hz. Additionally, this study indicated that hearing thresholds at 4000 and 8000 Hz declined at a faster rate in men than women. The difference in hearing loss between genders levels out at around the age of 80 years.

Possible reasons for the differences in hearing loss between men and women

While the exact reason for the differences in hearing loss between genders is not clear, experts have proposed that environmental and lifestyle factors may influence the way in which hearing loss affects men and women. Noise exposure has been reported to be one of the main causes of hearing loss. Exposure to high levels of sounds for prolonged periods of time or repeated exposure to a sound of high intensity such as a firearm can cause permanent damage to one’s hearing. A noise-induced hearing loss typically affects the higher frequency of 4000Hz which then may spread to other neighboring frequencies.

While some women may work within noisy environments, certain occupations are still male-dominated. These may include the construction, trucking, or manufacturing industry in which heavy machinery is used. Additionally, men are more likely to engage in noisy recreational activities such as shooting/hunting, motorcycling or even using power drills.

Although noise-induced hearing loss is preventable through the correct usage of hearing protection, studies have found that the use of hearing protection when engaging in recreational activities is quite low. Furthermore, men usually tend to neglect the importance of using hearing protection, even in the workplace where regulations have been set.

Unfortunately, men may also be more prone to certain health conditions that may increase one’s risk for developing hearing loss, such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, men are usually more likely to smoke which has also proven to increase their risk of developing hearing loss.

A study by Helfer (2001) reported that these differences may be explained by other variables such as genetics and the effects of certain medications on the auditory system. A more recent study published in 2010 also identified the use of medications to be a contributing factor, with their findings indicating that the regular use of aspirin, acetaminophen, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) increases the risk of hearing loss in men, particularly in those below the age of 60 years.

Conclusion

Men are at a higher risk of developing hearing loss compared to women and they usually struggle to hear high frequency sounds first. Possible causes for the difference in hearing loss between genders include noise exposure, the use of certain medication, health conditions, and genetics. It is important to care for one’s ears by using hearing protection, adopting healthy lifestyle choices, and through regular monitoring of one’s health and hearing abilities.

Written byShouneez Yousuf

PhD in Audiology

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