Studies consistently show that men are more likely than women to suffer hearing loss as they age. Why is this? There are multiple contributing factors, including lifestyle, occupation, health and heredity. We’ll consider these factors and get an expert perspective from Dr. Shin Someya, Associate Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in Gerontology for the University of Florida’s Department of Physiology and Aging.
Sex-Based Differences in Hearing Loss
Loss of hearing can be triggered or exacerbated by numerous causes, both innate and behavioral. While women may experience many of the risk factors we will discuss below, men are statistically more likely to engage in many of these activities or suffer from contributing conditions.
Lifestyle and Occupational Factors
Men are more likely to have hobbies in which loud noise is a given, such as riding motorcycles (by a 4 to 1 ratio), hunting with firearms or attending rock concerts. Men are also more likely to work in construction (by a ratio of 10 to 1), manufacturing and trucking (representing a combined 77% of people working in these fields): all occupations that may necessitate the use of loud equipment or involve noisy, repetitive tasks. In professional settings, mitigation of hearing loss is possible through the use of ear protection equipment and limiting exposure to extreme noise levels where possible.
Physical Health and Genetic Factors
Men are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, which can lead to hearing impairment, a complication that people with diabetes are more likely to experience. But are there genetic factors beyond our control that also cause men to experience hearing loss more often than women? Dr. Someya shared some perspective on the topic.
“It’s well known that women live longer than men,” Dr. Someya explained. “If you look at people over age 100, 80% of them are women. We don’t really know why women live longer than men, but a major hypothesis is that women avoid major life-threatening diseases like cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Another hypothesis is that women live longer because they have two X chromosomes, which are linked to longevity.” In contrast, men have one X and one Y chromosome. This extra X chromosome may reduce the likelihood of hearing loss in a woman who is 75 years of age, for example, in comparison to the chances of a man of the same age. Studies of sex-related hearing loss are ongoing.
Paths to Career Longevity
Through the Someya Lab, Dr. Someya has conducted research on cochlear aging, gender differences in hearing loss, and mitochondrial dysfunction and has published extensively on these and other topics. He currently teaches the course Biology of Aging (GMS 6486) at UF. “This is a ‘basics of aging’ course. We study the aging process. I talk about aging hypotheses. I also teach six differences in longevity and aging in humans and animals and assign my students to read research articles [on the topic]. Also hearing loss and vision problems, because these are important aspects of aging.”
Biology of Aging is part of the required curriculum for our Master of Science in Medical Sciences with a concentration in Gerontology and Graduate Certificate in Aging and Geriatric Practice programs and an elective course in our Master of Science in Medical Sciences with a concentration in Medical Physiology and Aging program. The growth of our aging demographic makes these programs timelier than ever.
The United States will need an estimated 33,200 geriatricians by 2025 — nearly five times the number we had in 2020. By 2030, 20% of Americans will be over the age of 65. Though jobs designed to serve older adults may become plentiful, you’ll need strong skills and credentials to qualify for them. Let’s take a closer look at these programs, which can be your point of entry into a new career or more rewarding role.
Affordable, Convenient, Entirely Online
Our Master of Science in Medical Sciences with a concentration in Gerontology is a 30-credit-hour program that investigates biological, clinical, ethical, legal, psychological and sociological aspects of aging. No thesis is required.
Our Master of Science in Medical Sciences with a concentration in Medical Physiology and Aging is a 30-credit-hour, non-thesis program designed to help you build a broader and deeper knowledge of the biology of aging.
Our Graduate Certificate in Aging and Geriatric Practice is a 15-credit-hour program that helps you build a fundamental understanding of geriatric medicine through an examination of the major human body systems. You may be able to apply the 15 credits you earn in this program toward our MS in gerontology or MS in medical physiology and aging program, provided you meet all the requirements.
Led by accomplished researchers like Dr. Someya, our programs enable you to:
- Enroll without taking the GRE or having clinical experience.
- Pay the same affordable tuition rates as other students regardless of geography.
- Study current gerontological concepts and research with experts in the field.
- Complete courses entirely online and asynchronously.
- Finish in as little as one year.
Explore timely, consequential gerontology topics alongside Dr. Someya and other renowned UF faculty in our online graduate programs in gerontology.