Equality in listening - how men and women listen differently

Have you ever heard of the book “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus”? It’s a book that points out the vast differences in men and women when it comes to emotions, money, effort, work, communication, and many other things. While most of these issues are spot on correct, there is another difference in women and men: How differently, in fact, they listen.


Many hearing professionals in the industry point out that they often hear women say their husbands don’t listen. Furthermore, this is said both before and after the hearing loss is treated. Could scientific research provide an answer to this generation's old question?

Grey and white

Believe it or not, research does actually suggest that men hear differently than women. The question is: are the differences as clear as black and white? The answer could be yes to both. Because human brains are made up of gray and white matter, the gray matter is believed to represent processing centers for information, and the white matter is the networking part of these processing centers.


A study of men and women’s brains conducted at the University of California, Irvine and the University of New Mexico found a difference between the amount of gray and white matter when comparing women to men. Gray matter was six times larger in men, but women had ten times the white matter. These differences were found when comparing men and women of equal intelligence. An abundance of gray matter helps men with localized tasks, and the white matter abundance in women helps women to excel at integrating and assimilating, which is a skill that is believed to help in language skills.


Although different activity centers within the brain are activated, on measures of cognitive functions both genders performed very equally. Which means even though we listen and process information differently, this difference doesn’t seem to bother our cognition or the actual ability to listen. Therefore, actual listening performance is not impacted by our listening differences.

Language processing

Anatomically speaking, there is no difference in the ears of men versus women. However, more research at Indiana University School of Medicine also reveals that men listen differently than women. The research reveals that men rely on one side of the brain when listening, while women appear to use both sides of the brain.


JosephT. Lurito, M.D., P.H.D., who is the assistant professor of radiology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, explains, “Our research suggests language processing is different between men and women, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that performance is going to be different.”


During this study, both women and men listened to an identical passage read aloud. Researchers found that most of the women taking part in the study showed temporal lobe activity on both sides of the brain. However, male participants showed neural activity as well in the temporal lobe, but the activity was only active on the left side of the brain. Scientists believe that the temporal lobe’s left side is mostly committed to speech and listening. Furthermore, non-auditory functions are thought to happen in the right temporal lobe.

Can the research affect how men and women communicate?

To be able to link processing differences to communication styles, more research is required. But most would still agree that women and men possess different listening and communication styles. Men will tend to listen mostly on the information that is required to successfully complete a task, or solve a problem. Women seem to focus mostly on the emotional tone of the conversation. However, it still remains unclear whether or not preferred communication styles directly relate to physical differences in genders.


Imagine if a link is actually established, and how cool it would be to put the blame on gray or white matter, or temporal lobes, instead of putting the blame on your significant other. If you happen to be getting annoyed that your partner is missing the emotional details of your conversation, and instead is focusing on solving the problem you revealed, you could actually blame that on increased gray matter or even their left temporal lobe.


So, in closing, I will say that you should cut your partner some slack. They’re listening to you, just maybe not listening to you how you listen to them. Got that?


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By Starkey Canada