A woman woke up with extremely rare condition which prevents her from hearing male voices, including her boyfriend’s voice. After going to the doctor to find out what was going on, she learned that she’s suffering from a rare condition known as reverse-slope hearing loss, The Daily Mail reports.
The woman suffering from this extremely rare condition is referred to as Ms. Chen. Before falling asleep, she reported feeling nauseous and hearing strange ringing noises in her ears. She decided to rest and see if the symptoms would improve, but instead, she woke up not hearing male voices. According to Thigpen Hearing Center, the condition affects only about 3,000 people in the U.S. and Canada combined. Here’s what is known about the condition so far.
No low-pitch sounds
The condition of being unable to hear low-pitch sounds, is called reverse-slope hearing loss. Patricia Johnson, a doctor of audiology, told Insider that Ms. Chen was unable to hear her boyfriend’s voice because male voices are lower pitch than women’s voices. In addition to being unable to hear low-pitched sounds, someone who has this condition will also be unable to hear vowels.
“Vowels sounds tend to have more low-pitch energy compared to consonants and contribute more to our sense of loudness, while high-pitched consonants contribute more to speech clarity and distinguishing between one word and another,” Johnson told Insider.
What causes this rare condition?
She added that there are three causes which could prevent people from hearing male voices. First, Johnson said “a particular gene might cause certain hair cells to never develop in utero.” Those hair cells, if damaged, could compromise how the person hears something because they are responsible for the way different pitches are perceived.
Second, reverse-slope hearing loss could result from another ear-related condition such as Meniere’s disease, a condition which impacts the fluid around hair cells. Finally, it’s possible to develop the extremely rare condition out of nowhere like Chen did. The development of the disease could result from a viral infection, although other causes remain unknown.
A few treatment options can fight the condition, although the damage cannot be reversed. If the condition developed overnight, an ear, nose, and throat physician may be able to inject a steroid “through the ear drum,” Johnson explained. However, the effects of the conditions remain mostly permanent.
“It is important that the patient receive personalized counseling regarding their communication difficulties in addition to any type of device,” Johnson said, adding that additional hearing implants could prove helpful to improve the patient’s hearing.
In order to prevent the inability to hear male voices, Johnson simply suggests that people protect their ears, adding that this practice is beneficial to both the heart and ears. She recommended also being cautious in noisy environments.