There are countless things that can contribute to poor hearing health, from aging to loud noise, but one you may not be aware of is gender. A recent study found that the odds of hearing loss are 5.5 times greater in men than in women.
In honor of Men’s Health Week, June 13-19, we’ve put together this guide to men’s hearing health. We’ll touch on different health topics, how they relate to your hearing, and what you can do to keep your hearing healthy.
Hearing and Overall Health
Age-related hearing loss affects more than 60 percent of U.S. adults older than 70 years of age, and it has been associated with increased risk of hospitalization, decreased quality of life, and increased risk of functional and cognitive decline. The onset of hearing loss is gradual, with prevalence tripling from the age of 50 years to 60 years. Individuals who cannot understand or hear what others are saying sometimes choose to avoid social situations entirely, rather than ask others to repeat themselves — especially in situations where background noise is significant.
Cardiovascular Disease and Hearing Health
The association between cardiovascular health and hearing health has never been stronger. It’s all about blood circulation throughout the body. The Ear, Nose, and Throat Institute believes that the link between hearing loss and cardiovascular disease is because of the inner ear’s sensitivity to circulation. The disease causes hardening of the arteries, which affects your circulation and, in turn, your hearing.
Circulatory problems have the ability to affect any number of bodily processes, particularly in the most delicate areas of the body — like the cochlea, the delicate inner-ear organ responsible for sending sound signals to the brain. Conditions that restrict blood supply to the cochlea can starve the inner ear of necessary oxygen and permanently damage hearing.
Quit Hurting Your Hearing: Smoking
We know that genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors help determine a person’s risk of hearing loss — and that includes smoking.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, cigarette smoking was determined to be a factor in the development of hearing loss. Current smokers are 1.69 times as likely to have a hearing loss as nonsmokers, and nonsmokers who live with a smoker are more likely to have a hearing loss than those who are not exposed to second-hand smoke.
Those who smoke a pack a day for 40 years are 1.27 times as likely to have a hearing loss as those who smoke a pack a day for 10 years.
Hearing’s Connection to Mental Health
Many with hearing loss choose not to engage in social activities because the stigma associated with it is embarrassing, despite the fact that treatment is likely to improve their social lives.
Another survey performed by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia, and were less likely to participate in organized social activities compared to those who wear hearing aids.
Another significant component of the NCOA study was that 2,090 close family members or friends of the hearing impaired were asked a parallel set of questions both before treatment and after treatment. Benefits of treatment with hearing aids were significant, offering improvements in many areas of life ranging from relationships and social life to sense of independence:
- Relations at home improved by 56 percent according to the user, 66 percent according to family and friends.
- Self-image improved by 50 percent according to the user, 60 percent according to family and friends.
- Life overall improved by 48 percent according to the user, 62 percent according to family and friends.
- Mental health improved by 36 percent according to the user, 39 percent according to family and friends.
- Social life improved by 34 percent according to the user, 41 percent according to family and friends.
- Relations at work improved by 26 percent according to the user, 43 percent according to family and friends.
Protecting From and Preventing Hearing Loss
Age is one of the most common factors in hearing loss next to noise-induced hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss is caused by changes in the inner ear that happen as you get older, causing a slow but steady hearing loss. The loss may be mild or severe, and it is always permanent.
Ways to protect your hearing at any age:
- Musician earplugs
- Custom earpieces
- Foam earplugs
- Hunting hearing protection
- Education and awareness