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Reverse Slope Hearing Loss: The Woman Who Can’t Hear Men

Published on Jan 24, 2019

Recently, a news story from China went viral with the headline “This Woman Cannot Hear Male Voices” and started a countless number of jokes. Many women quickly shared the story with comments like “If only I had that problem, too!” However, the actual story behind the viral headline is more serious than that. So what is the story behind the woman who can’t hear men?

The Strange Case of Ms. Chen

The woman (who has only been referred to in the press by her last name, Chen, to protect her privacy) suddenly started to experience nausea and a ringing in her ears. Since she had been working many late hours at work and felt stressed out, she decided to sleep it off. The next day, her boyfriend greeted her and she couldn’t hear him say a word.

Understandably, the couple was afraid. They were also very confused, since she could hear other sounds in the home. Was she slowly losing her hearing? What was happening?

Reverse Slope Hearing Loss

Visiting the hospital quickly revealed an important clue; while she couldn’t hear the men around her, she could hear the female hospital staff perfectly fine. After examining Ms. Chen, Dr. Lin Xiaoqing at Qianpu Hospital determined that her patient had reverse-slope hearing loss, a very uncommon type of hearing loss.

Sudden reverse-slope hearing loss can be caused by a viral infection or Meniere’s disease. Extreme duress can also be a factor, and Dr. Xiaoqing hypothesizes that Ms. Chen’s extremely stressful overtime at work contributed to her surprising condition.

reverse slope hearing loss

“Wait, reverse-slope hearing loss makes women not hear men?”

First, reverse slope hearing loss can happen to anyone regardless of gender. And technically it doesn’t stop those affected from hearing male voices specifically, but it does affect your ability to hear lower-frequency sounds (unlike more common forms of hearing loss that start with higher-frequency sounds). Since masculine voices tend to be lower in frequency, they are often among the sounds lost when reverse-slope cases occur.

Reverse slope hearing loss also affects your ability to hear equipment humming, phone conversations, and running vehicles, just to name a few. Losing so many sounds common to your surroundings makes this kind of hearing loss really dangerous if left unchecked.

The Moral of the Story

This story has a happy ending, fortunately. Dr. Xiaoqing is treating the hearing loss and Ms. Chen is expected to make a full recovery. Because Ms. Chen recognized something wasn’t right with her hearing and immediately sought medical attention, her sudden hearing loss can actually be reversed.

The lesson here is to pay attention and trust your body when it’s telling you something is wrong. If you’re having hearing issues, whether it’s sudden like Ms. Chen’s case or slowly worsening over time, we suggest getting your hearing tested.

Does your hearing test show you need hearing aids? Email us your test results and our in-house audiologist will help you find the right hearing aid for your needs.
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