A woman lost her hearing for men’s voices overnight due to a rare and strange condition.

What caused her to lose her hearing, and will she get it back again?

Hearing Loss

In Xiamen, China, a woman identified only by her surname Chen lost her hearing overnight. Evidently, the night before she lost her hearing, Chen vomited and experienced tinnitus or ringing in the ears. The next day, she immediately knew that something was wrong when she woke up and was unable to hear her boyfriend’s voice. Similarly, at the clinic of ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Lin Xiaoqing, Chen could hear her voice but not the voice of a male patient at all.

According to Dr. Xiaoqing, Chen was experiencing a form of low-frequency hearing loss called reverse-slope hearing loss (RSHL), named after the shape it produces in visualizations during hearing tests. Because of this, she lost her ability to hear low-frequency sounds, such as those of deep male voices.

Doctors say that Chen’s condition was brought about by stress from working late and not getting enough sleep. As such, Chen is expected to make a full recovery once she has had ample rest.

Reverse-Slope Hearing Loss

Compared to common hearing loss that is often characterized by loss of sounds at higher frequencies, RSHL is the opposite and instead affects low-frequency sounds. It is a rare condition that affects only 3,000 people in the United States and Canada and has been linked with conditions such as Wolfram Syndrome and Mondini dysplasia.

Often, people who have RSHL don’t suspect that they have it until another family member has it. Furthermore, it tends to be difficult to recognize, diagnose, and treat because they were born with it and do not realize that the way that they’re hearing is rather different.

Some symptoms of RSHL include having difficulty understanding speech over the phone, having no problems understanding women and children but having difficulties understanding men, and being unable to hear low-frequency environmental sounds such as the whirring of a refrigerator.

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