Hearing loss does not discriminate – it can affect anyone of any gender, race, or age. But according to the National Institute of Deafness & Other Communication Disorders, men are twice as likely to experience hearing loss but as less likely than women to open up about it or seek help. Each gender also experiences hearing loss differently: men are more likely to lose hearing in high-frequency levels, whereas women lose hearing in low frequency. So, why is this? What makes the gender divide in hearing loss?
Admittedly, the gender divide is down to lifestyle rather than biological factors. Our ears are predisposed to natural degradation over time, yet this process is intensified or lessened by the choices we make throughout our lives.
While women have successfully entered male-dominated fields, there is still a higher level of men working in construction, military, mechanics, and manufacturing occupations across the globe. Many individuals remain unaware that exposure to over 85dB of noise over prolonged periods of time can be detrimental to hearing health. To put this into further perspective regarding these kinds of industries, the heavy machinery often required on construction sites can reach a whopping 120dB! Without sufficient protection like ear plugs, 120dB can cause immediate damage to your ears. If you add power tools, hammers, and other equipment to the mix, the noise levels would be extortionate. In the military, it is common to be exposed to shouting and gunshot sounds. Shouting, especially directly in the ear will reach around 110dB, whereas gunfire will let off approximately 158dB – this is a real danger zone!
You can well imagine now why loud noise is one of the most common hazards in the workplace, and why this results in higher rates of hearing loss at younger ages. If you are working in one of these occupations, you may be questioning: what can I do to prevent this? If you are working in an environment where you are consistently exposed to loud noise, you should contact your occupational health manager. Your employer is obliged to make changes to reduce your exposure such as switching you to a quieter environment or rotating between, ensuring that you avoid loud noises for prolonged periods and provide hearing protection.
Hobbies & Interests
Like occupational choices, hobbies and personal interests aren’t restricted to either men or women, however, many men tend to enjoy or feel compelled to pursue certain pastimes. These may include riding motorcycles, using firearms, attending car races and sports stadiums, or even mowing the lawn. Except for firearms, which can reach a colossal 140dB these all sit around 90-100dB – so, if you are pursuing these types of hobbies, remember to enjoy in moderation or use hearing protection.
Certain medications, known as ototoxic medications, can damage the cochlea in the inner ear ultimately causing hearing loss. It is generally believed that men use ototoxic medications at a higher rate than women. These include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and certain antibiotics.
Preventing Hearing Loss
To avoid hearing loss, we recommend investing in a comfortable, dependable pair of ear plugs, and they often come with cases to carry on-the-go. They come in different materials to suit individual tastes including silicone, foam, or wax.
If you do have concerns about your own, or someone else’s aural health, getting a hearing test is the first step. If there is damage to your ears, an audiogram will determine how mild or severe the hearing loss is.