According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 430 million people, or roughly 5% of the global population, suffer from ‘disabling’ hearing loss. Most people know that older adults are more likely to lose their hearing as a result of Age-Related Hearing Loss (ARHL), but does a person’s gender also have an impact on their chances of having hearing problems? Below we discuss the impact of hearing loss on men and women. We also examine some of the cultural stigmas surrounding masculinity, and men’s reluctance to seek medical care for hearing loss.
When hearing loss interferes with communication, work, or daily activities, it can negatively impact anyone regardless of gender. The best way to get ahead of any hearing problems is to visit a specialist for regular check-ups and hearing screenings.
Does Gender Play a Role in Developing Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss can affect anyone regardless of gender, age, or race, and every person should be vigilant about getting their hearing checked regularly. However, decades of research data have shown that, regardless of age, men are two times as likely to develop hearing loss during their lives as women are. This may be due to a combination of factors, including genetics, lifestyle, and exposure to loud noise.
Contrary to long-standing beliefs, recent research suggests that men are biologically more susceptible to hearing loss than women (Nolan 2020). Hearing loss can be inherited, and certain genetic mutations have been identified as risk factors for developing the condition. Family history of hearing loss is also a risk factor. Prior to these recent findings, it was assumed that lifestyle factors that are more specific to men are the reason for the disparity.
Throughout history, men have more often held jobs that place them near loud equipment and other noises for extended periods of time, such as construction, manufacturing, and military service. These industries have historically employed far more men than women, and many more men have suffered from hearing loss because of on-the-job noise exposure. The additional biologic risk makes men even more likely to be impacted by hearing loss.
While these kinds of jobs, such as those in construction or manufacturing, can increase the risk of developing hearing loss due to exposure to loud noise, it’s important for any individual in these fields, regardless of gender, to take precautions to protect their hearing.
Contrary to long-standing beliefs, recent research suggests that men are biologically more susceptible to hearing loss than women (Nolan 2020). Prior to these recent findings, it was assumed that lifestyle factors that are more specific to men are the reason for the disparity.
One segment of these lifestyle factors is job-related. Throughout history, men have more often held jobs that place them near loud equipment and other noises for extended periods of time, such as construction, manufacturing, and military service. These industries have historically employed far more men than women, and many more men have suffered from hearing loss because of on-the-job noise exposure. The additional biologic risk makes men even more likely to be impacted by hearing loss.
Also, traditionally male hobbies tend to involve loud noises more often when compared to those that are disproportionately taken up by women. Think about activities such as car/motorcycle racing, shooting firearms, and attending sporting events.
Traditionally, male hobbies tend to involve loud noises more often when compared to those that are disproportionately taken up by women. Think about activities such as car/motorcycle racing, shooting firearms, and attending sporting events. However, hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise, also known as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), can be caused by everyday sounds that both men and women are frequently exposed to. If proper protective measures are not taken, the longer you are exposed to loud noises, the higher your risk of hearing loss becomes. Similarly, the louder the sound is, the quicker it can cause permanent damage to your hearing.
Men Are Less Likely to Admit They Have Hearing Loss
Cultural stigmas, lack of awareness, and reluctance to seek medical care are just some of reasons why men may be less likely to admit they have hearing loss and seek treatment for it.
Cultural Stigma Surrounding Masculinity
One reason why men may be less likely to admit they have hearing loss is due to cultural stigma surrounding weakness and masculinity. Many men may feel that admitting to having a hearing impairment would be seen as a sign of weakness or vulnerability.
Men Are Less Likely to Go to a Doctor
Research in the US shows that men are less likely to consult a doctor about health problems regardless of income or ethnicity. Men may be more likely to avoid seeking healthcare, especially for conditions that they feel are not serious or life-threatening. They may also be less likely to seek treatment for hearing loss because it is not an urgent or visible condition.
Men Are Less Likely to Seek Treatment
Another issue related to gender and hearing loss is that men are typically less inclined to seek treatment when they notice a problem. (Garsteki 1999) This compounds the problem of more men overall contracting some form of hearing loss, as women who do suffer from hearing problems are usually less concerned about the stigma associated with them.
Women Live Longer but Not Necessarily Healthier
It is a known fact that women tend to live longer than men. However, this does not necessarily mean that they are healthier. Women are more likely to experience chronic health conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis, which can affect their quality of life. Furthermore, women often have less access to healthcare resources which in turn affects their overall health including hearing care.
Women Generally Need More Medical Care Than Men
Due to the fact that women go through several physiological changes throughout their lives such as pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause, they typically require more medical care than men. These changes can have an impact on their overall health, and they may require more regular check-ups and screenings to ensure they stay healthy. In fact, while this condition is rare, studies have found that that sudden sensorineural hearing loss is a possible side effect of pregnancy (Swain, S. K., Pati, B. K., & Mohanty, J. N., 2020).
That being said, hearing loss can affect anyone regardless of gender, which is why hearing health is something that needs to be considered for both men and women alike.
Everyone Needs to Be Aware of The State of Their Hearing Health
Men face some unique challenges when it comes to hearing loss. However, ARHL affects men and women alike when the hearing loss interferes with communication. The best way to get ahead of any hearing problems, regardless of gender is to visit a hearing specialist to get a full assessment of your condition. The experts at U.S. Hearing Solutions can help diagnose any issues with a comprehensive hearing exam and recommend treatment options that fit your lifestyle, so schedule a consultation at one of our hearing centers today to get started.
We encourage you to take proactive steps to preserve your hearing by meeting with one of our highly experienced audiologists at any of our hearing clinics conveniently located throughout the United States. Don’t wait until it’s too late – take action now to protect your hearing for years to come.
1. Lisa S. Nolan: Age‐related hearing loss: Why we need to think about sex as a biological variable. Journal of Neuroscience research. 18 June 2020
2. Garsteki D, Erler S. Older adult performance on the Communication Profile for the Hearing Impaired: Gender difference. J Speech Lang Hear Res. 1999; 42:785-796.