Hearing loss affects both men and women, of course, but it appears to affect men more intensely. Not only are there work and medication differences, but the ability to explain hearing loss may also play a role. Much of this can be changed, however, if you know what to avoid and what to do.
Men have up to twice the rate of hearing loss as women, and this may have to do with work history. Women participate in most industries alongside men, but the fact remains that men are more likely to be in noisy jobs like construction. All that noise exposure can worsen your hearing. Sometimes the effects are acute; for example, you’re standing right next to a drill when it goes off, and suddenly your hearing is worse (this can be temporary, but it can also be permanent). In many cases, the noise exposure is chronic, and the loss builds over time.
Men may also have higher rates of ototoxic medication use. Ototoxic means toxic to hearing and your ear. Anti-inflammatory medications, aspirin, and a host of other medications can make your hearing get worse over time, though some can bring on hearing loss very quickly. It’s thought that men tend to take more of these medications, thus exposing their hearing to a greater risk of damage.
Explanations and Requests for Help
An odd factor in how hearing loss affects men and women is that women may be a lot better at explaining to people that they (the women) have a hearing loss. Women also tend to be better at asking for help and telling people how they can help the women understand what’s being said. Because women are better at getting this extra assistance, they may experience fewer social effects from the hearing loss and have a better quality of life overall.
There’s yet one more factor in gender differences in hearing loss. Men tend to lose more hearing in the lower frequencies at first, and women tend to lose more hearing in the higher frequencies at first. While this makes it difficult for both men and women to hear, men may experience more of a problem. This is because they are likely to hear fewer high-frequency sounds, including many high-pitched voices. That could lead to less social interaction and higher rates of depression.
Preventing these issues requires long-term vigilance; those in noisy jobs need to wear hearing protection, and those who need to use medication should try to find versions that are not ototoxic. Men can also learn to explain their hearing loss better. The biological difference might not be preventable, but by watching out and preventing the other reasons for declines in hearing, both men and women can experience better outcomes.