In case you haven’t heard, we love the month of March around here. The days start getting longer, March Madness brings the heat, St. Patrick’s Day brings the fun, and this year we witnessed a total solar eclipse.
Did you also know that March is Women’s History Month? It has us thinking about the special women in our lives. While they may never grace the archives of national history, they make a significant impact in our families and communities. And there are actually notable differences in the general patterns of female and male patients—not just at HearWell, but around the country. Men and women experience different tendencies in hearing loss and hearing aid use.
According to the National Institute on Deafness, women are half as likely to develop hearing loss than men. This is largely attributed to work and lifestyle exposure to noise, with women less often working in loud environments, such as a construction worksite. Women are also less likely to participate in loud activities that often lead to hearing loss, such as hunting or race car driving.
The type of hearing loss also varies between women and men. Generally, women lose hearing in the lower frequencies first, and men lose hearing in the higher frequencies first. This means women and men with hearing loss struggle to hear different types of words differently.
Gentlemen, let’s take a page from the ladies’ book. A 2011 study in Switzerland showed that women were more likely than men to wear their hearing aids for a longer period of time, and with higher regularity of use. This study concluded that men with steeper audiogram slopes (those with discrepancy in hearing low pitches versus high pitches) were less likely to use their hearing aids on a regular basis. This is important to note, because not hearing certain pitches means not hearing certain parts of speech, such as the f, s, and th sounds. Then conversations can lead to “filling in the blanks”, which is exhausting and frustrating.
Of course, these traits and habits are general patterns among the sexes, and vary for individuals. What remains consistent in all of our patients is a desire to hear well and live better. One particular woman we celebrate this month embodied this passion for living better—Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts. Low had severe hearing loss for most of her life. When she started the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1912, girls with disabilities were often excluded from activities. But Low welcomed girls with disabilities into the Girl Scouts and proved that deafness could not get in the way of making a difference.