Gender and Hearing Loss

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Hearing loss in men versus women

Hearing loss can happen to anyone at any age, regardless of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background. However, there are some groups of people that are predisposed to hearing loss for a variety of different reasons. Often, the groups of people that are more likely to experience hearing loss have a variety of different occupational and behavioral risk factors that predispose them to the condition.

That being said, there’s one subset of the population that’s more likely to develop hearing loss than others: men. If that fact is surprising to you, you’re not alone. Hearing healthcare professionals have been intrigued by this phenomenon for years and have been trying to understand why men are so disproportionally affected by hearing loss ever since.

In fact, a 2008 study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins even found that men are five times more likely to develop hearing loss than women, with white men displaying the highest likelihood for hearing loss out of any of the involved demographic groups. Most surprisingly of all, however, is that this difference in hearing loss rates between men and women isn’t genetic or biological.

Curious, isn’t it? We thought so, too. Let’s take a look at some of the main reasons why men are more likely than women to develop hearing loss throughout life.

Noise Is An Occupational Hazard

The vast majority of people who develop hearing loss throughout life do so because of exposure to loud noises. This kind of hearing loss, known as noise-induced hearing loss, is caused by frequent exposure to noises that are well above the “safe” sound threshold of 85 dB. Alternatively, noise-induced hearing loss can happen after a single traumatic incident, where one is exposed to a sudden catastrophic noise, like an explosion.

When we consider many of the traditional occupations that a man might have, it’s easy to see where noise-induced hearing loss might come into play. From loud construction jobs to factory work to military deployments, exposure to loud noises is a fact of life for people working a number of different jobs. Unfortunately, men often work these jobs thanks to millennia of pervasive gender norms in the workplace.

Even though work safety laws in the United States dictate that ear protection must be provided to workers in unsafe conditions, many workers fail to wear these devices or don’t have adequate access to them. Thus, if you or a loved one are routinely exposed to loud noises at your job, you can file an OSHA complaint and/or seek medical care from a hearing healthcare professional.

Hearing Loss Risk Factors

In addition to workplace exposure to loud noises, men are more likely to develop hearing loss due to a number of different behavioral risk factors. Certain behaviors, such as smoking, can increase one’s risk for developing hearing loss over time. Unfortunately, men seem to be more likely to take part in these behaviors than women.

Additionally, many health conditions common in men, such as high blood pressure and heart disease are considered “comorbidities” for hearing loss. This means that when one condition is present, the other often is, too. Thus, many of the health conditions that men are more susceptible to than women increase an individual’s risk for developing hearing loss in the long-term.

Ultimately, this means that men should be conscientious about their behavior and lifestyle choices, due to the drastic impacts that these choices can have on their hearing health. If you or a loved one are concerned about hearing loss, speak to your local hearing healthcare professional today!

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