Are Men More Affected By Hearing Loss Than Women?

Man and his son walking together outdoors


June is Men’s Health Month, so we’re diving in to explore the topic of men and hearing loss. 

You may be surprised to discover that hearing loss is different for men and women. 

Read on to learn more and find out why.

So first things first: Are men really more affected by hearing loss than women? YES!

Men do experience hearing loss more often than women. And on top of that, hearing loss in men tends to appear earlier, and the loss is more profound than in women.

This is partly because men are still less likely than women to address health issues when they first arise. But like many ailments, catching a hearing problem early often allows us to stay in front of the issue, and retain a fuller range of sounds. 

So, men – I’m talking to you directly here! – if you notice yourself missing parts of conversation, or the volume on the TV is slowly inching upwards, this is not the time to grin and bear it. Let’s schedule a hearing test and make sure we can nip any early hearing problems in the bud.

Your quality of life relies on it.

But is this true in Canada too? ABSOLUTELY

We may wear a toque, when everyone else in the world calls it a wool cap, and we may love complaining about the weather over a warm cup of Tim Horton’s, but unfortunately these national idiosyncrasies won’t help close the hearing disparity between men and women. 

Even in Canada, 63% of men are likely to experience hearing loss, compared with 46% of women.

Still, women aren’t off the hook.  As we age, everyone’s risk of hearing loss increases.

Overall, 93% of Canadian adults aged 70-79 will experience hearing loss, compared with 38% of adults aged 40-59.

For this reason, we recommend everyone get a baseline hearing test around age 50 – man or woman, whether you notice any hearing issues or not – simply to set a standard against which we can compare future hearing tests.

Men report higher levels of tinnitus too

Often described as a ringing or buzzing in the ears, tinnitus is the term used to describe any sound that cannot be attributed to an external source.

While 37% of Canadians experience tinnitus in any given year, that figure is higher for men (39%) than for women (34%).

This is likely due to their role in the workforce, and their traditionally louder choice of hobbies.

Why are more men affected by hearing loss and tinnitus than women?

Men's hobbies can impact hearing health.

Photo credit: Paul Trienekens, Unsplash

There are many physiological, social and occupational reasons hearing loss is more prevalent in men.  For example:

  • Differences in physiology and hormones.

  • Loud hobbies – such as those that involve power tools or attending loud sporting events – increase the risk of exposure to dangerous noise levels.

  • Reluctance in general to seek medical help.

  • Historically “male” occupations, like trades or military service, often expose employees to loud noise from machinery, engines, construction, artillery, or traffic.

  • The “Code of Silence.”  Historically, hearing loss in a field like the military, could be a liability… it may be seen as a weakness, but you could even lose your job. 

  • While times are changing, and employee support is improving, this culture of stoicism is not so easily dismantled.

We know you know how important good hearing is to your quality of life

You want to hear your grandkids tell you about their week…

You want to hear what the daily special is without asking the waiter to repeat it…

You want to do that favour your spouse just requested…

It’s up to you to prioritize your health. 

Remember: by breaking any stigma you might feel around getting help for hearing loss, you pave the way for other men to follow your lead. 

You all deserve the hearing support you need to continue your active lives.

Noise at work is a problem

People on a noisy construction job site

Did you know noise exposure is the leading cause of hearing loss?

More than 11 million Canadians have worked at some time or another in a noisy workplace.

You may be at greater risk of hearing loss if any of the following apply to you:

  • You work in a noisy industry, where construction, manufacturing, military, engine or other equipment noise is present.
  • You are retired from a similar industry.
  • You worked in a noisy workplace before your employer was required to provide hearing protection.

How loud is too loud?

In British Columbia, the allowable noise limit is 85 decibels over 8 hours.

Impact noises, such as hammering or pile driving, must not exceed 140 decibels.

But how can you tell if you’re exceeding that? 

As a general rule, if you’re one metre away from your colleague, and need to raise your voice to be heard, the noise level is probably around 85 decibels.

Other signs it may be too loud at work include:

  • Ringing ears at the end of the workday.
  • Difficulty hearing others over the noise.
  • Other sounds are muffled or unclear, even when the noise subsides.

If you’re experiencing any of the above, it may be time to consider using hearing protection like earplugs or noise cancelling earmuffs.

Loud hobbies also negatively impact hearing

Man blowing leaves with leaf blower

If you’re the kind of guy whose best friend is a Shop Vac… or if you live for the weekend race track or shooting range, then you need to keep this formula in mind to keep your hearing safe:

Safe hearing levels = volume (how loud) x length exposure (how long)

Remember, even moderate/high volumes can be dangerous if the noise persists for hours at a time.

Here are a few examples of hobbies that pose the biggest threats to your hearing:

  • Sporting events, car/motorcycle racing, shooting firearms.
  • Chores such as mowing the lawn, using a weed eater or blowing leaves.
  • Working with power tools such as drills and saws.
  • Cranking up the music in your car or on your headset.

If your pastimes are on the louder side, the best thing you can do is educate yourself on noise exposure and how to protect your hearing.

After all… hobbies are meant to enhance your wellbeing, not diminish it!

Certain medications impact hearing

Certain medications can affect your hearing

Photo credit: Mykenzie Johnson, Unsplash

Just as some medications can blur your vision or slow your reflexes, others can affect your ear, resulting in hearing loss, ear ringing or even balance issues.

Medications that are toxic to the ear are called ototoxic, and there are more than 200 known ototoxic medications, including some common over-the-counter brands.

  • NSAIDS (NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) such as Ibuprofen, Naproxen, and Aspirin
  • Loop diuretics
  • Arthritis medication
  • Medications for chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes
  • Cancer medications

Keep an eye on how often you’re reaching for those painkillers or other over-the-counter medications.

And if you do experience a new ringing in your ears that coincides with the start of a new prescription, make sure to report this to your doctor and/or medical team.

Can men help prevent hearing loss?

So you work construction. And nothing brings you greater joy than clearing the leaves and snow from your neighbourhood sidewalks with the latest blowers…

What’s a guy to do? 

Hearing loss need not be a forgone conclusion, if you follow these tips… (the earlier the better!):

  • Learn about hearing health and talk about yours with others (including your medical team).
  • Be aware of safe noise exposure levels – remember 85 decibels over 8 hours is the standard here in BC.
  • Wear hearing protection – like earplugs – in a loud workplace and/or when operating noisy machinery.
  • Be careful with medication – both over-the-counter and prescribed medications can be toxic to your ears.

And finally, if you’ve over the age of 50 and you’ve never had your hearing tested, or it has been two years since your last hearing test, it’s time to see an Audiologist.

If you’re ready to schedule a Hearing Evaluation with an Audiologist, please call: Broadmead Hearing Clinic: 250-479-2969 or Oak Bay Hearing Clinic: 250-479-2921

Contact Us

Call today for a hearing evaluation.

Broadmead: 250-479-2969

Oak Bay: 250-479-2921

Colwood: 778-430-5834