Woman's weird illness means she can't hear men's voices

Henrietta Brewer
January 12, 2019

High-frequency hearing loss is much more common and generally means people struggle to, or can't hear the voices of women and children.

In what nearly sounds like an excuse not to listen to her boyfriend, a woman in China has been diagnosed with a rare condition that makes her unable to hear the sound of men's voices, but can hear women just fine.

Doctors believe that Ms. Chen's particular condition may have been brought on by stress and a severe lack of sleep.

In Chen's case, her doctor said that stress from working late and losing sleep caused Chen's low-frequency hearing decline, adding that rest would soon fully restore the woman's hearing, Newsweek reported.

Dr Lin Xiaoqing treated Chen and told local sources when she arrived at the hospital she could hear everything the female specialist said.

What is reverse-slope hearing loss (RSHL)?

The night before, the patient-only identified by her last name Chen-heard ringing in her ears and vomited. In reverse-sloping hearing loss, the shape of the audiogram runs in the opposite direction.

As news of the unusual case circulated, many social media users cracked jokes, with one person claiming it wasn't a condition, but simply evolution, while another enquired as to how they could contract it.

"Sensorineural hearing loss" can result in a low frequency hearing loss - a type caused by inner ear hair cells getting damaged.

The ear, nose and throat specialist said that she expected Ms Chen to make a full recovery. This can put them in danger, as they may not hear low noises like oncoming cars. Less often, a shift in the pressure of ear fluid can trigger reverse-sloping hearing loss.

According to the World Health Organization, some 466 million people across the world are affected by some form of disabling hearing loss.

The extremely unusual condition, which reportedly affects only about 3,000 people in the U.S. and Canada, causes patients to lose their ability to hear low-frequency sounds, including average male voices.

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