Gender Hearing Differences
©Arlene R. Taylor PhD
Females tend to hear better than males (have less acute hearing), and this difference only becomes more pronounced throughout life. For example, eleven-year-old girls are distracted by noise levels that are approximately 10 times softer than the levels that boys find distracting.
- If you are working with girls, keep the room as free of extraneous noise and distraction as possible, and avoid raising your voice (if male presenter, speak more softly). Small group learning can be a good strategy for an all-girl group.
- If you are working with boys, speak up, especially if female presenter. Avoid small-group learning situations. When in small groups, boys are often rewarded by their friends for being disruptive.
- If you are working with boys and girls in the same classroom, put all the boys in front and the girls in the back of the classroom. This can help boys to hear better, while the sound of the teacher’s voice will be more comfortable for the girls.
Processing of Voice Sounds by Gender
A study at the University of Sheffield and published in the journal NeuroImagefound differences in the way the male and female brains process voice sounds. Females typically process voice sounds in Wernicke’s area in the left cerebral hemisphere. Males tend to process male voice sounds in Wernicke’s area, but process female voice sounds in the auditory portion of the right hemisphere used for processing melody lines.
Females tend to listen with both hemispheres and pick up more nuances of tonality in voice sounds and in other sounds (e.g., crying, moaning). Males tend to listen primarily with one hemisphere and do not hear the same nuances of tonality (e.g., may miss the warning tone in a female voice)
- As compared to a male voice, the female voice is more difficult for males to listen to
- The female voice may be processed by males as “a melody line” or as “background music”
- To increase the likelihood of being heard by a male, a female needs to lower her voice pitch and keep it even (avoid pitch variation), speak louder, and lower inflections at the end of sentences.
Researcher Dr. Michael Hunter said: “The female voice is actually more complex than the male voice, due to differences in the size and shape of the vocal cords and larynx between men and women, and also due to women having greater natural ‘melody’ in their voices. This causes a more complex range of sound frequencies than in a male voice.”