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It's official Black People Have Better Hearing

man listeningMelanin may protect against noise induced loss.

A new study by scientists with the federal National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in America has found that black adults hear better than white adults.

It's thought that the difference may be because of melanin. Some scientists believe black people’s larger amounts 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.

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 the iPod.

Genetics or the amount of noise exposure may explain the difference between women and men, said Elliott Berger, an Indianapolis-based hearing protection expert. 'Boys have typically done noisier activities.'

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, reported at a scientific conference last week, looked at more than 5,000 people who had hearing tests from 1999 through 2004 as part of a comprehensive, annual federal health survey that includes physical examinations. The 10- to 20-minute hearing test involves wearing headphones and pressing a button when a tone is heard. Both frequency and loudness, or decibels, are measured. People who can hear higher-frequency tones are better at differentiating certain sounds, such as 'list' versus 'lisp'. On average, the 1,077 non-Hispanic black people in the study could hear higher tones at 15 to 22 decibels, the 1,245 Mexican Americans could hear high-end tones at 16 to 25 decibels, on average and the 2,518 non-Hispanic white people could hear high-end tones at 21 to 32 decibels, on average.

Women on average were more sensitive to higher frequency tones. They could heard higher tones at 11 to 22 decibels, compared with 19 to 32 decibels for men.


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