Hearing Loss: Does Gender Play a Role?

, University of Washington Medical Center; , University of Washington Medical Center, Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center


Medscape General Medicine. 1997;1(2) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


An estimated 8 million women in the US have difficulty hearing, and 2 million of those are able to hear, at best, only shouted words. Women of all ages have better hearing than men at frequencies above 2000Hz. The better pure-tone audiometry thresholds of women at high frequencies is paradoxically accompanied by a "gender reversal" in which women, as they age, have a poorer capacity to hear at low frequencies--specifically those below the 1000- to 2000-Hz range--than do men. Thus, the pattern of hearing loss with aging may differ between women and men. The hypothesized role of ovarian hormones and cardiovascular disease in hearing loss is reviewed, and such interventions as cochlear implants to correct hearing loss in women are highlighted. Research into organ of Corti hair-cell regeneration is ongoing and may offer recovery of hearing in the next century.


Both men and women are at risk for age-related hearing loss. Women approaching retirement age have better high-frequency hearing than their male counterparts, and this differential increases with age. However, women in their sixth to ninth decades lose low-frequency hearing at a greater rate than men. What explains this difference in hearing loss between the sexes? Are there possible interventions specifically to prevent hearing loss in women?