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Do Men and Women Hear Differently?



It doesn’t matter which side of the gender fence you’re on. Whether or not you have that male Y chromosome, you have no doubt caught yourself saying something like, “I wish I could understand how the other side ticks.”

Now that we’re fully immersed in the technological innovations of the 21st century, we have a better idea of just how our brains work.

The Burning Question…

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that enterprising researchers have harnessed things like brain resonance imaging technology to answer some burning questions, such as: Do men and women hear differently? We’re not talking about selective hearing here, the kind your mother said you had when you failed to listen to her pleas to clean your room but immediately jumped when she told you dinner was ready. Instead we’re discussing the ways the different genders process the auditory information that’s coming into their brains.

All About Temporal Lobes
In 2000, the Indiana University School of Medicine conducted a study in which 20 men and 20 women underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) studies of their brains while they listened to a passage from a popular legal thriller.

FMRI technology enables researchers to view, in real time, what parts of the brain are being stimulated by a sound or a picture. The findings? In this case, activity in the brains of a majority of the male participants was focused on the left temporal lobe, the part of the brain linked to speech and listening. The majority of the women showed activity on this left temporal lobe portion as well, but also exhibited it to a lesser extent on the right temporal lobe where non-language auditory functions are located.

What This Study Means
Although this study used only a small sample of participants, it still has interesting implications. First, men and women process auditory information differently. For the most part, men use a smaller region of their brains to do so, while women also integrate the portion that deals with nonverbal information.

You should not assume that because the genders seem to deal with sound input differently, one is better than the other. The Indiana University study gives researchers and clinicians some food for thought. They may, for instance, want to keep these differences in mind when treating stroke victims or other individuals recovering from brain injury. Brain surgeons might also use this information when mapping out the details of their procedures, perhaps avoiding or seeking out specific areas based on the patient’s gender.

As we continue to look into the amazing depths of our own organic thought mechanisms, there are sure to be countless fascinating discoveries that point to similarities and differences between the genders. No matter how complex and sophisticated our technology becomes, however, one thing seems almost certain: We will never totally understand the opposite sex. And perhaps having a little mystery is exactly the way it should be.

If you think you’re suffering from hearing loss, don’t blame it on your gender. Hearing care specialists like those at Miracle-Ear offer free hearing tests to help see whether or not you’re hearing is at risk.