Even though both men and women can suffer hearing loss, men are twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss than women. It may be tempting to blame it on genetics. However, that would not be accurate. Rather, the different choices by men and women surrounding occupations and lifestyles turn out to be the culprit. Data shows that certain behaviors that are stereotypically masculine are associated with a higher risk of downgraded hearing ability. This article will discuss how occupations and lifestyles make more men suffer from hearing loss.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)
To understand why men, on average, are more likely to have hearing loss than women, we should first know about the most frequent cause of hearing loss: noise-induced hearing loss.
As its name suggests, this type of hearing loss is caused by noise. Constant and excess - or a short yet extremely loud - exposure to noise damages the auditory nerves in the inner ear, which may result in NIHL.
Noise is inevitable, both during work and leisure.
While most people have encountered loud noise, they may not be aware of having hearing loss.
Is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Genetic?
While it is true that more than half of the hearing loss among babies is genetic, and hearing loss can be caused by genetic causes like heredity and mutations, NIHL is not associated with our genetic code.
Exposure to loud noise remains the most common cause of hearing loss, as loud noises are everywhere. Even the sound from a bus driving past or a busy restaurant can cause damage to your ears, which we hear almost every day.
Tip: If you have experienced loud noises, and are concerned about your hearing ability, you should always seek a thorough evaluation from a hearing care professional. Meanwhile, you can look for signs of hearing loss.
Not convinced that occupational and lifestyle choices are causing different hearing loss prevalence between men and women?
Let us take a closer look at the data.
Occupations and Hearing Loss
The working environments associated with some jobs are extremely noisy.
For instance, let us compare the noise level between an office and a construction site.
Needless to say, the construction site (80-90 dB) is much noisier than the office (45-60 dB).
While personal protection equipment (PPE) can protect the hearing of the construction workers from the noise, workers would often choose to not use it as they found it uncomfortable. They are also confident about their work, so safety is not a concern for them. Most importantly, the regulation regarding this issue is ambiguous, and there is no clear line of the requirement for wearing PPE.
Thus, it is obvious that a construction worker is more likely to suffer from hearing loss than a clerk.
From the data, we can observe that some jobs have a skewed male-female ratio.
Again, let’s take the workforce for elementary construction in 2021 as a reference. The ratio of male to female construction workers is roughly 32:1.
Besides construction, other occupations with an extremely noisy working environment like pilots, farmers, and drivers are also dominated by men.
Therefore, it is no surprise that more men suffer from hearing loss, and that hearing loss is associated with their jobs.
Of course, there are exceptions.
Teaching, an occupation that is more dominated by women, also has a noisy working environment of around 85 dB. But given that majority of the high-risk jobs are male-dominated, it makes women suffer less from hearing loss than men.
Yet, career choice is only one of the many factors. Besides occupation, lifestyle choices can also pose negative impacts on our hearing.
Lifestyles and Hearing Loss
Similar to occupations, the environmental noise during leisure activities also varies.
Let’s take reading a book in a quiet room and going to a nightclub for a comparison.
The former is at around 30 dB while the latter, can have noise high up to 110 dB, which is even louder than a construction site, so it increases the chance of getting hearing loss.
Again, there isn’t a clear phenomenon of differences between the lifestyles of the genders, but men’s lifestyles also happened to be louder than women’s.
For instance, men like to drive motorcycles for leisure. The engine roars while going full speed are a threat to our hearing, clocking in at 100-115 dB
Drawing, a hobby that is more preferred by women than men, produces little to no noise. With the low decibels, the risk of getting hearing loss also becomes low.
It makes sense for people to do activities that the other genders prefer, but there is a general idea that ‘more masculine’ activities tend to make more noise.
A research found that the ratio of women to men for watering flowers is 52:0, and the ratio of women to men for driving a car is 1:4.
While watering flowers make very little noise, driving an automobile can produce noise at 60-75+ dB depending on your speed.
This shows that males’ preferred activities are typically noisier than women’s, and a noisier lifestyle increases the risk of getting hearing loss.
However, as the world is becoming noisier, the differences between male and female hearing loss prevalence may be extinguished.
Hearing Loss For Everyone
Have you ever noticed the loud noise around you? Especially when staying in cities?
Maybe we have a quiet occupation and lifestyle, but it is impossible to avoid noise exposure. The phone’s ringtones, frequent constructions, and busy traffic all make noises that can cause hearing loss.
While traffic causes many noise problems like noise pollution, and people are aware of the impacts of noise on hearing, it is illogical to abandon either one of them.
The slightest we can do is to protect our hearing in our daily lives. We should avoid going near noisy places like construction sites as much as we can. We should also avoid noisy activities like going to a nightclub. If the noise is not avoidable, we should wear protective gear to protect our hearing.
With noise problems getting more severe, it’s only a matter of time before we start losing hearing. Therefore, we must stop hearing from deteriorating before it’s too late.
The world is getting noisier. With that said, the goal becomes protecting our hearing. Knowing that everyone may get hearing loss at some point, it is still crucial to stay away from the noise as much as we can to prolong the periods with healthy hearing. Working quietly and living quietly is a good direction, but checking our hearing regularly is also crucial.