President's Message
August 2006

1.  What's that? Hearing varies by gender and race?

Black adults hear better than white adults, a study has found. The study also found that women hear better than men and that, overall, hearing in the United States is about the same as it was 35 years ago, despite the advent of ear-blasting devices such as the Walkman and iPod. The racial difference may be related to melanin, a skin pigment. Some scientists believe black people's larger amount of melanin protect them from noise-induced hearing loss as the years go by. Scientists suspect melanin plays a role in how the body removes harmful chemical compounds caused by damage to the sensitive hair cells in the inner ear. Genetics or occupational noise exposure may explain the difference between women and men. The conclusion that the nation's overall hearing has not changed since the early 1970s seems to contradict other recent research finding that modern teenagers do not hear as well as children did in the age before mobile listening devices. The study looked at more that 5,000 people who had hearing tests from 1999 through 2004 as part of an annual federal health survey. On average, the 1077 non-Hispanics blacks could hear higher tones at 15 to 22 decibels, while the 2,518 non-Hispanic whites could hear high tones at 21 to 32 decibels. [Our own tests of BAS members, a very limited sample, tend to confirm these results].

President, Boston Audio Society

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updated 9/3/06