It seems that, increasingly my wife and I have difficulty hearing each other. You would think after 49 years of marriage we would get better at this personal communication thing, but no, it doesn’t work that way. We have both lost some of our hearing of course, but it’s not clear that explains the rate at which we ask each other to repeat something… a rate that seems to be approaching exponential. To satisfy my curiosity, I decided to see if there are some physiological reasons for this. So maybe we could dismiss any other reasons, like one willfully or subconsciously ignoring the other.

What I found out is there are no gender hearing differences when we are born. However, as we grow up, research shows that women possess better hearing than men at higher frequencies, but with hearing loss as they age, women are less able to hear lower frequencies than men. Men are also five and a half times more likely to lose their hearing than women, for what it’s worth. And when you factor in differences between voices, including female/male voices at higher and lower frequencies, respectively, the cross-gender hearing problem comes into better focus. You know, women talk high and hear high, men talk low and hear low, in unscientific speak.

But wait, there’s more. The genders also process sounds differently. Females typically process voice sounds in the left hemisphere of the brain, but tend to listen with both hemispheres and pick up more nuances in voice sounds. Males tend to process male voices similar to females, but process female voices in the right hemisphere, which is also used for processing music. And as compared to a male voice, the female voice actually contains a more complex range of sound frequencies. So, not only is a female voice more difficult for males to hear, males have the additional problem of processing a female voice as “a melody line” or as “background music.”

Hmmm. As it turns out, physiology does play an important part. Therefore, speaking for males, may I suggest that men should be granted at least a partial pass by their female companions, given the above hearing difficulties that they have to overcome? And that about covers all the hot water I care to get into at the moment on this subject, so I won’t also relay what the experts say about how a female can increase the likelihood of being heard by a male. There now. Was this helpful? Did you hear me?