Woman wakes up to find she can't hear men's voices

Rare form of hearing damage prevents people from hearing low-frequency sounds

It’s almost like something out of a movie -- a woman wakes up one morning to find that she can't
hear her boyfriend talking. Here's the thing, though -- it actually happened to one Chinese woman.

Chen, which is the only name used to identify the woman, had been up sick one night when she noticed a ringing in her ear, health.com reports. When she woke up the next day, she couldn’t hear what her boyfriend was saying to her.

After a trip to the Qianpu Hospital and a visit with an ear, nose and throat specialist, Chen was diagnosed with reverse-slope hearing loss, a rare form of low-frequency hearing damage that prevents people from hearing low-frequency sounds -- which typically make up a man's voice.

It wasn't just her boyfriend she couldn't hear. The ear, nose and throat specialist with whom Chen met, Dr. Lin Xiaoqing, said Chen could hear her own voice and the doctor's voice perfectly during the exam, but when a young man walked into the same emergency room to be treated, Chen could not hear him speaking at all, either.

According to audiologyhears.com, RSHL is so rare that for every 12,000 cases of hearing loss, only one person has RSHL.

The most common type of hearing loss is high-frequency hearing loss, which people typically notice when they begin to have trouble hearing women and children or hearing a conversation in a busy restaurant.

Experts said because RSHL is rare, many in the hearing care field haven’t encountered it. But it does have a distinct set of characteristics audiologists will look for, including:

  • Unusually good speech.
  • Sensitivity to high-frequency environmental sounds.
  • Poor speech perception in the absence of visual cues.
  • High speech-detection thresholds.
  • Pure-tone hearing losses.

An array of things can cause RSHL, such as genetic abnormalities, certain diseases and infections and a change in pressure of the fluid in the inner ear, but Xiaoqing believes Chen’s condition developed because of stress and a severe lack of sleep.

Fortunately for Chen, she is expected to make a full recovery.

About the Author:

Dawn Jorgenson, Graham Media Group Branded Content Managing Editor, began working with the group in April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.