Anyone can be diagnosed with hearing loss, regardless of their age, race, gender, or other factors.
However, research has identified that certain factors will put you at a higher risk for being diagnosed with a hearing impairment. For example, age puts older adults at a higher risk for being diagnosed with age-related hearing loss. Other risk factors include health issues, such as chronic kidney disease, or participation in certain activities, such as exercise.
But did you know that gender may also play a role in your likelihood of acquiring hearing loss? In fact, Johns Hopkins University found that men are five times more likely to be diagnosed with hearing loss than women. Despite what many may assume, gender as a risk factor has less to do with biology and more to do with gender roles.
Whether you, or a man in your life, are concerned about their hearing health, it may be time to understand why men are at higher risk for acquiring hearing loss. We’ll also take the time to explore how men can reduce their likelihood of being diagnosed with hearing loss down the road and, if you’ve already been diagnosed, the treatment options available.
Hearing Loss from Work
As mentioned, most of the factors that increase a man’s likelihood of acquiring hearing loss have more to do with the roles men traditionally play in society. For example, jobs in many of the male-dominated industries, like the military or construction, have a higher likelihood of exposing employees to damaging noise levels and experiencing hearing loss as a result.
The problem with frequent exposure to loud noises is that it can permanently damage our hearing, resulting in what’s called noise-induced hearing loss. Because anyone can be exposed to dangerous sound levels, everyone is at risk for this type of hearing loss. However, those who work in certain fields are at the greatest risk.
Unfortunately, once noise-induced hearing loss occurs, the damage is irreversible: Noises above 85 dB (decibels) have the ability to kill our hair cells, or the tiny sensory cells located in our inner ear that allow sound to travel to our brain. When those hair cells die, they cannot be replaced, making the damage to your hearing irreparable.
Thankfully, if you have yet to acquire this hearing loss, there are measures you can take to prevent it. Especially if you work in an industry that increases your risk, you may want to start protect your hearing. In fact, in the United States, employers are required to provide you with hearing protection while on the job. To learn more, you can visit the National Institute for Occupational Safety.
Hearing Loss from Behavioral Habits
Occupations in male-dominated industries aren’t the only ways that men increase their risk for acquiring hearing loss. Like the aforementioned occupations, men are also more likely to participate in certain behaviors that increase their risk. While these behaviors are not exclusive to men, they are more common to men than women.
One such behavior is smoking. While both men and women participate in smoking, men are more likely to do so: According to the Center for Disease Control, 17.5% of men smoke as compared to 13.5% of women. This is likely due to men’s earlier adoption of smoking, as well as the potential impacts of smoking on pregnancy. Either way, since men are more likely to smoke, they are also more likely to acquire smoking-related hearing loss.
But how does smoking impact your hearing? The National Institute of Health (NIH) states that smoking can have a negative impact on virtually every organ in your body. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that smoking can negatively impact your hearing health as well. Smoking specifically impacts your hearing by reducing the oxygen supply to your inner ear, which can result in mild to moderate hearing loss.
If you currently smoke but are interested in reducing your potential to damage your hearing, you may benefit from reducing how often you smoke. Even better, you can choose to quit smoking altogether. For more information, Smokefree.gov offers many great resources for starting your journey to a cigarette-free lifestyle.
Hearing Loss from Medication
While the occupations and behaviors of men certainly play a significant role in increasing their chances of hearing loss, not all risk factors that impact men are associated with their gender roles. While it is unclear why they impact men more than women, ototoxic medications have been identified as a higher risk factor for hearing loss in men.
Ototoxic medications, like aspirin, can cause permanent hearing damage in anyone, especially when taken in higher doses. Strangely enough, research suggests that men under the age of 60 who are regular aspirin users are 33% more likely to experience hearing loss than women. An increased risk of hearing loss was also associated with regular, long-term use of acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
The best way to decrease your chances of damaging your hearing with medication is to reduce how often you take such medications. If you must use ototoxic medications, make sure you are taking the appropriate doses. You may also wish to discuss alternatives with your doctor if acquiring medication-induced hearing loss is a concern.
Why Men Resist Treatment
Not only are men are more likely to acquire hearing loss, they are also less likely to seek treatment for their hearing loss. In most cases, hearing loss can be treated by purchasing a pair of hearing aids, but men are more resistant to purchasing them than women.
In fact, in 2011, National Center Biotechnology Information published a study which revealed that, even amongst those who own hearing aids, men were less likely than women to use them regularly. According to AARP, men may be more resistant to using hearing aids because they worry it will make them appear less capable. Moreover, since men are often in positions of power, from being the boss in the workplace or breadwinner at home, they are more likely to get away with not using hearing aids.
Despite the negative stigma many people place on hearing aids, the potential negative impacts of not wearing hearing aids are often much worse. When those with hearing loss choose not to wear hearing aids, they may increase their chances of being diagnosed with conditions like depression or dementia. Those who elect to wear hearing aids, on the other hand, can receive the benefits of an improved quality of life, not to mention better hearing.
How Can You Hear Better?
Although men tend to resist wearing hearing aids, don’t let this deter you from trying hearing aids for yourself. Remember, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders states that 28.8 million Americans could benefit from hearings aids. That being said, if you’re having trouble hearing, there’s no reason to defer treatment any longer.
To get started, we recommend scheduling a hearing test with your local ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor. Your hearing test will reveal the exact type of hearing loss you have. With the results of your hearing test in hand, you’ll be prepared to select a pair of hearing aids that can help.
After that, Advanced Affordable Hearing is here to help you select the appropriate hearing aids for your hearing loss. By pre-programming our hearing aids to the most common hearing losses, we’re able to keep our prices low. That way, you can start hearing like you should, without breaking the bank.
To start your journey to hearing better today, contact us now.