Hearing loss doesn’t discriminate—it can affect anyone of any age or any race. But does hearing loss affect men and women equally? According to the latest research and surveys, yes. This data shows that more men than women are affected by hearing loss—with rates of hearing loss being nearly twice as high in men than in women.
Although no one knows all of the reasons why men experience hearing loss more frequently than women, audiologists have hypothesized a few explanations for this difference. Here are some reasons men may experience hearing loss more than women:
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a common type of hearing loss. One study found that men may experience NIHL at nearly three times the rate of women. Experts suggest this difference may be tied to workplace noise.
While careers and industries of all types are open to both men and women, some careers are male-dominated. These include several types of jobs that may have high levels of noise, such as military careers, construction sites, factory or manufacturing work, farming, flight crew, or emergency workers and first responders like policemen, firemen, and ambulance drivers.
Certain medications, known as ototoxic medications, are known to cause hearing loss. It is believed that men use ototoxic medications at a higher rate than women, which exposes them to a higher risk of hearing loss. Ototoxic medications include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, certain antibiotics, certain cancer drugs, and more.
Although men appear to experience hearing loss at a greater rate than women, both genders suffer from hearing loss. Another difference exists, however, in how men and women handle hearing loss. Women are more likely than men to seek professional care for their hearing loss.
In addition, women are often more willing to admit to their friends and family that they suffer from hearing loss. This can lead to better hearing solutions for living with hearing loss day-to-day, such as choosing restaurants with lower noise levels, friends and family speaking more clearly, and other accommodations for the person with hearing loss. Because women are more likely to seek treatment and ask for help, they typically experience fewer negative social effects and have a higher quality of life.
Another difference between men and women who experience hearing loss is how the hearing loss manifests itself. Men are more likely to lose the ability to hear higher frequencies first, while women are more likely to have difficulty hearing lower frequencies. While both of these issues can cause long-term problems, men may experience more negative social effects because they can hear fewer high-frequency sounds, including higher-pitched voices.
So, what does this mean for you? If you work in a noisy environment, be sure to use appropriate ear protection to avoid hearing loss. If you use ototoxic medications, speak to your doctor about whether another medication option is available that will not endanger your hearing. Men can also learn to better recognize the symptoms of hearing loss and seek professional treatment when necessary.
To learn more about how men and women experience hearing loss differently, we invite you to contact our hearing professional today.