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Hearing Loss & Men

According to a recent report by the CDC, men are more likely to suffer from hearing loss than women. Why is that? Men and women have the exact same ear structure—there’s no extra layer in a woman’s ear that better protects her from hearing loss. Therefore, the differences must be due to environmental factors rather than biological ones. Let’s explore:

Hearing Loss: It’s in the Job

Nearly half of Americans with hearing loss suffer from noise-induced hearing loss, caused by longtime exposure to excessive noise which slowly deteriorates hearing ability. Oftentimes, this noise comes from the workplace, and noisy workplaces are primarily male-dominated spaces: construction sites and factories are common workplaces that eventually lead to noise-induced hearing loss. Hunting, target shooting, using power tools, and serving in the military are also common sources of noise-induced hearing loss.

Another factor for the increased rate of hearing loss in men is the use of analgesics—aspirin, acetaminophen, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). A 2010 study funded by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Foundation concluded that regular use of analgesics were associated with an increased risk of hearing loss.

Explaining hearing loss

A recent study conducted at a Massachusetts hearing clinic suggested that women are better than men at explaining hearing loss to others in a way that fosters better communication. Women more readily offer suggestions to make communication easier, such as asking a friend to speak in their ‘good ear.’ Conversely, men prefer a direct approach—they disclose their hearing loss when it’s necessary, but do not elaborate or make suggestions to ease communication.  This may have some impact on why more men suffer from hearing loss—when they first discover that their hearing is getting worse, than might be unlikely or unwilling to explain the problem to their friends, loved ones, or even their doctor.

Hearing Loss Protection for Men

So, we know that men suffer from hearing loss more than women. How can we reverse this trend and protect hearing? Since excessive noise is one of the most influential factors in causing hearing loss in men, the most important precaution men can take is using protective gear when working in noisy environments. If you work on a factory floor or are in construction, make sure to use ear protection!

Employers are legally obligate to provide ear protection when noises reach a certain decibel level, but if you are uncomfortable with the level of noise at work, take your hearing into your own hands and buy earmuffs. Always wear ear protection if you’re using firearms, and even when you’re mowing the lawn—prolonged noise from tools like a lawn mower or a chainsaw can cause hearing loss. Once it’s gone, hearing can’t be restored, so make sure to take care of your hearing!

Sources: HealthyHearing.comNational Institute on Deafness and Other Communication DisordersThe American Journal of MedicineThe Center for Disease ControlReuters

By: Elena McPhillips