Whether it’s age-related or noise-induced, hearing loss can happen to anyone. Despite your age or background, different kinds and severity of hearing loss is the frustrating reality for over 48 million Americans and over 466 million people worldwide. Though hearing loss does not solely occur based on age or background, it does develop in one group at much higher levels on average than previously thought. Intriguing audiologists for some time, research has found that men experience hearing loss at much greater levels. The data is concerning, with studies such as Johns Hopkins University’s 2008 work concluding that men were found to be at five times greater risk to develop hearing loss than women, raising concerns about men’s health risks, stigmas that men must overcome with hearing loss, and the reasons for this discrepancy.
Lead by researchers Yuri Agrawal, MD, and John Niparko, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, their 2008 study had found that not only did men experience hearing loss at levels five times greater than women, but that hearing loss was a prevalent problem among American adults than previously reported. Though hearing loss can happen to anyone at any age, Niparko and Agrawal found that race and age did play a role in their data, finding that white men were the most at risk for hearing loss, displaying symptoms much higher than other groups. Age affected their results as well, concluding that this gap between genders began around the age of thirty, with men beginning to experience hearing loss at much higher rates than women.
Niparko and Agrawal’s findings raise concerns for the deaf and hard of hearing community, with the team at Johns Hopkins University concluding that hearing loss is a major societal problem with high costs and a rising prevalence, especially in men.
Despite gender being the identifiable difference, biology is not always to blame for the difference in hearing loss between men and women. Over 20,000 cases of occupational hearing loss are reported annually, with many resulting in permanent hearing loss. The jobs in which these occur are often performed by men, where job equipment and environments can expose workers to extreme volumes such as construction or manufacturing. This accounts for over 24% of all hearing loss in the United States according to the CDC.
Unfortunately, despite rising numbers of men facing hearing loss, they’re still less likely to use hearing aids or seek treatment for their condition than women. this could be for numerous reasons, though studies show some patients do feel a societal pressure against hearing aids, believing that they look older and weaker when wearing one. This stigma is dangerous and debilitating, as a refusal to treat hearing loss early can result in worsening hearing damage or early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
With new technology and research being explored on a daily basis, we can start to reverse the nationwide epidemic of hearing loss. Decreasing stigma, making work environments more hearing friendly, and consulting health care professionals when hearing loss is suspected is the first step. Johns Hopkins University’s study concludes that we lack a rigorous accounting of hearing loss prevalence in the United States that does not rely on self-reporting, therefore, Niparko and Agrawal recommend that if men are experiencing hearing loss symptoms, to seek out medical help as soon as possible. It may save your hearing in the long run.