Seeing ] [ Hearing ] Engaging ] Processing ] Responding ] Choosing ]



Gender Differences in How Boys and Girls “Hear” the World


Gender differences are based upon groups and averages.  They are not meant to define an individual.  Educators should use gender differences in the same way that they use information regarding multiple intelligences, learning styles, prior experiences, human development, etc.  Information allows a teacher to better understand and interpret her or his students.


I do not conduct research myself.  I read texts, reviews, and articles about gender, gender differences, boys, girls, and education and try to make it accessible to educators and meaningful within classroom instruction.  As such, I have grouped recent research into six broad differences:  Seeing, Hearing, Engaging, Processing, Responding, and Choosing.


There are some important points that must be made before moving forward.


The passages listed below were selected because they all relate to the issue of ears, hearing, or voice.  Educators need not agree with all of these passages, but they should be aware of recent information on how “hearing” affects the learning of students.


  1. Across all samples, girls and women showed an advantage over boys and men for accuracy in judging emotion cues on the bases of facial expressions, body posture, and vocal intonation.  Male, Female:  The Evolution of Human Sex Differences, page 269.
  2. Boys are more attuned to louder and lower sounds.  Teaching the Male Brain  Page 37 
  3. Children, especially right-brain children and African American children, particularly African American boys, can learn while moving.  Some teachers are concerned about the increased noise level when children move about the room.  But children can also learn when there are higher noise levels, especially right-brain learners.  Keeping Black Boys Out of Special Education, Page 85.
  4. Eleven-year old girls are distracted by noise levels about ten times softer than noise levels that boys find distracting.  Why Gender Matters Page 18
  5. Even otoacoustic emissions (audible ‘clicks’ made by the inner ear) differ reliably between the sexes, being both louder and more frequent in female than male adults, children and infants.  Cahill, Larry (2006). Nature Reviews Neuroscience
  6. For the most part, boys are not good auditory learners.  Teach boys to take verbatim notes.  Provide lecture notes online so that students can incorporate them into their own notes, or you can provide a copy of your lecture notes before the lecture. … Boys tend to acquire information easily through visual methods, particularly if the information involves pictures and graphs rather than words.  Teaching the Male Brain  Page 43 
  7. Girls’ ears are more sensitive.  They can hear softer sounds better than can boys.  Conversely, boys have much more tolerance for noise than do girls.  Girls can hear higher sounds better than boys and their hearing is sharper.  However, boys are better at sound localization.  Teaching the Male Brain  Page 19 
  8. Given their slight verbal and auditory advantages and, possibly, their stronger social inclination, girls may participate in such exchanges [live talk] more readily.  All the more reason to engage your son in conversation from an early age, bathing his brain in the sounds, words, and grammar that will improve his speech and pave the way to better reading and writing skills later in childhood.  Pink Brain, Blue Brain, page 71
  9. It is generally believed that women are more attuned to cues such as facial expression or tone of voice, and this opinion appears to be supported by objective studies.  Sex and Cognition, page 89
  10. The female ear is better able to pick up nuances of voice, music, and other sounds.   … They learn to speak earlier and learn languages more quickly.  … Women excel at verbal memory and process language faster and more accurately.  Brain Based Learning  page 95 
  11. This pure tone threshold is lower in women than in men, meaning that their hearing is more sensitive throughout the range of sounds humans can hear, but it is especially marked at frequencies above four thousand cycles per second.  Sex and Cognition, page 81   
  12. Women in the study were especially impacted by the noise.  Researchers reported an 8 percent loss of productivity in some cases.  The noise may be more detrimental to women due to their better hearing, report researchers.  The tones emitted are at about a 16 k Hz level:  Men rarely hear above 15 k Hz.  Brain-Based Learning, Page 69          
  13. Women, however, find noise unpleasantly loud at lower levels of stimulation than men do.  Sex and Cognition, page 82