Noise Sensitivity in Women Linked to Stress
Don’t go get a hearing test if you’re a woman who has been under recent stress. The results may be inaccurate, according to a recent Swedish study.
The study results indicate that women who are more stressed out tend to be far more sensitive to loud noises. Researchers sought out to assess auditory sensitivity, called “hyperacusis” in 140 men and 208 women ages 23-71 years. First they exposed participants to physical, mental and social stress, and their levels of emotional exhaustion were tested.
Physical stress consisted of putting their hands in ice. They also underwent a mental stress test and were observed watching an emotionally stressful video. Then they were exposed to “uncomfortable loudness levels” equivalent to cutlery being rattled in a tray.
Stressors Increased Sensitivity
Before being tested, there was no difference in sensitivity to sound among participants before being exposed to the stressors. However, the results showed that the women with more emotional exhaustion had much higher sensitivity to sound than women who were not exhausted. In fact, some exhausted women showed higher sound sensitivity to typical sounds, such as normal talking. A smaller previous 2012 study found similar findings.
So women under stress seem to be more prone to the higher sound sensitivity than men. If they are seriously affected by being hypersensitive to sound, women may become isolated and avoid possible stressful situations. The authors advise hearing specialists to keep this in mind when diagnosing and treating hearing problems in women.