Women and men have always known they’re different. So different that there are books devoted to the topic and designed to help us decode each other. One article sums up this long list of differences perfectly as:
“…gender may have a substantial influence on human cognitive functions, including emotion, memory, perception, etc., (Cahill, 2006). Men and women appear to have different ways to encode memories, sense emotions, recognize faces, solve certain problems, and make decisions.”
There may now be one more difference to add to the list. It may not be a surprise to some who have long suspected it to be fact-based on their own experience, but research is finding that women and men also differ when it comes to hearing loss.
The facts of hearing loss in men
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 15% of American adults (37.5 million) aged 18 and over report some trouble hearing, about 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit from using hearing aids. While those numbers are eye-opening, they don’t tell the whole story. That age and race play a significant role in hearing loss.
In a study from Johns Hopkins, researchers found that not only did overall rates of hearing loss seem higher than previously believed but that men were at particularly high risk, especially based on race and certain lifestyle factors:
“Odds of hearing loss were 5.5-fold higher in men vs. women and 70% lower in black subjects vs. white subjects. Increases in hearing loss prevalence occurred earlier among participants with smoking, noise exposure, and cardiovascular risks.
While more research is needed into this higher risk for men, experts believe several factors contribute.
Risk factors of hearing loss for men
It may be tempting to lay all the blame on a difference in biology between men and women, but it may be simpler than that. Experts point to two big reasons for higher risk of hearing loss in men:
Occupations – We have come a long way when it comes to equality in the workforce, but that doesn’t mean that everything is equal across the board. Many of the jobs still primarily held by men are known to involve noise at levels that can lead to hearing loss. Construction workers, airport ground staff and motorcycle couriers are just a few examples. Even with hearing protection like earplugs, hearing loss is often part of the job.
Lifestyle and health – you may have heard that certain lifestyle factors can increase your risk of hearing loss, such as smoking. Several health conditions have also been linked to hearing loss, including cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. What do these have to do with men and hearing loss? Many of these health conditions and habits are more common among men. A double whammy!
Take charge of your hearing
The good news is that it’s never too late to reduce your risk of hearing loss and take charge of your hearing health. Work with your physician to get a baseline of your health, then start with simple lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthy diet and incorporating regular exercise to improve heart health. Schedule a hearing evaluation with your hearing health care provider to identify and treat hearing loss as early as possible.
If you have questions about your hearing loss risk or would like to schedule a hearing evaluation, contact our office.