Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hear We Go! Gender and Hearing Loss

Photo by Simon James
Age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss. A population-based study of 3,556 participants in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin showed the hearing loss in increasing percentages by age bracket:

21% of 48-59 year olds
44% of 60-69 year olds
66% of 70-79 year olds
90% of 80 to 92 year olds

(Data adapted from Table 5)

Aging is often a gendered experience. As women age, they are at greater risk of living alone, being in poverty, suffering from depressing and developing certain physical problems such as osteoporosis, hypothyroidism, and fibromyalgia. Men, however, experience a greater risk for hearing loss. There are various hypotheses for why men are at greater risk. Men often participate in recreational activities and occupations that have high decibel levels, including military service.

Regular use of analgesics (such as aspirin) may contribute to hearing loss, and many men take baby aspirin as prescribed by their cardiologists. Some studies show that women and blacks have a lower rate of hearing loss based on physiological reasons that give them an otoprotective advantage.

It’s also interesting to note that men and women lose hearing at different rates. Christopher Morrell and colleagues published a study in 1996 that demonstrated how men lose hearing gradually over the lifespan, but women’s hearing drops off more dramatically at older rates. By the time men and women reach their 80s, their rates of hearing loss are about equal.

Many people with hearing loss struggle to accept that they have a problem and fail to wear their hearing aids. However, a 1998 study concludes that men actually have a more honest perception of their hearing loss and comply more with wearing their hearing aids than women. So octogenarian women need to ask for some tips from men about how to manage their hearing loss, because by then most of the men have “been there, done that.”


Glasses, Hearing Aids and Dentures Not Covered by Medicare
Overcoming Communication Disorders


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