The next time your husband says he didn’t hear you when you called his name, take heart. He may be telling the truth. Studies indicate that men are twice as likely to develop hearing loss than women, especially those between the ages of 20-69.
More than 28 million Americans have some type of hearing impairment and approximately 60 percent of them are men. Health experts believe environmental factors may be the major reason why, mostly due to noisy, male-dominated occupations such as construction and factory work.
Another factor may be the use of aspirin, acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSID), according to a study published in the 2010 issue of the American Journal of Medicine. The study, conducted by researchers from Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Vanderbilt University and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, found that regular use of these common pain relievers increased the risk of hearing loss in adult men younger than 60.
Regular aspirin users under the age of 50 and between the ages of 50-59 years of age were 33 percent more likely to have hearing loss than non-regular users. Regular users of acetaminophen by men younger than 50 were 99 percent more likely; those between the ages of 50-59 were 38 percent more likely, and those older than 60 were 16 percent more likely to develop hearing loss than non-regular users.
How can men change the score? The solution may lie in prevention, especially while on the job. Employers are required to provide hearing protection for employees in work environments where decibel levels exceed 85. Otherwise, men should be aware of situations in which noise is excessive, such as at rock concerts or while operating power tools, and take appropriate action to protect their hearing. Men who regularly use pain relievers should consult their family physician for more information.
Even when men and women do experience hearing loss at equal levels, typically after the age of 80, there are still evident differences. Women seem to lose hearing in the lower frequencies first; men lose hearing in the higher frequencies. Loosely translated, men have more problems understanding consonants and women have more trouble understanding vowels — meaning both genders have trouble hearing the spoken word like they used to.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s usually a spouse or family member who recognizes you may have a hearing impairment. If that’s the case, do yourself a favor and have your hearing evaluated and treated as soon as possible.
Untreated hearing loss can cause a multitude of emotional and psychological issues, including anxiety, depression, frustration, anger and isolation. Those who wear hearing aids report experiencing better quality of life, including fewer incidents of depression and feelings of isolation, and improved relationships with family and friends.