Men Can't Hear: Sex-Linked Sensory Differences

male sensory perception

When it comes to the difference between men and women, there may be no accounting for taste -- but you can account for smell.

Men's senses and women's senses are a combination of sense stimulation and the brain processing information. There are often pronounced differences in the ways men and women perceive smells, sounds, and sights. There are fewer differences between men's and women's senses of taste and touch, but in general, men underperform compared to women in the sensory department.

Men are more likely to suffer hearing loss, they have a less developed sense of smell, and the idea that they prefer the taste of beer more than women do is false.

"In general, women seem to have a slight edge up on men in terms of abilities," said Dr. Paul Breslin, a professor of Nutrition at Rutgers University and a member of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.

Some of these differences evolved over time, allowing men and women to choose the best foods or select their optimal mate.

And some of these differences can still be physiological. Men don't experience the pronounced hormonal changes women do, during pregnancy for example, but their bodies change as they become older.

"All the senses decrease as you get older," Breslin said. "Olfaction takes a nosedive, you lose vision."

No one's senses are immune to the ravages of time.

The following is a list of some of the unique aspects of male senses.


Lacking the extra X chromosome goes a long way toward vision differences between men and women, especially when it comes to detecting color.

Human color vision is based on three light sensing proteins, two of which have genes located on the X chromosome. For women, who have two copies of the X chromosome, if one of the genes does not function properly, there is a greater chance that the extra copy of the gene on the other chromosome can compensate.

But in men, one mutated gene is enough to significantly affect their vision, and the most common defect is red-green color blindness.

"This is a typical X-linked trait that is much more common in men than in women," said Dr. Jeremy Nathans, a professor of molecular biology and genetics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

People with red-green color blindness have difficulty distinguishing colors at which light travels at longer wavelengths -- reds, oranges, yellows. People with one defective color vision gene -- known as dichromads -- make up approximately 2 percent of the caucasian male population, according to Nathans, while those with an altered color gene make up between 6 percent and 7 percent of the caucasian male population.

Nathans said color blindness in African and Asian populations is less common by half, but the reasons for this are not known.

While color blindness can be a burden as far as distinguishing colors at long wavelengths, Nathans said there are situations where the trait can be helpful.

"Dichromads do better at tasks where color acts as a distraction," he said, in situations where spotting camouflaged objects is important, for example.


If you think men don't listen, it may be because they actually can't hear.

According to a study from Johns Hopkins University, men are five and a half times more likely than women to experience hearing loss as they age, starting as young as 20 years old.

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