A woman has a rare condition that prevents her from hearing male voices. Yes, we’re serious.

ear

After a woman woke up unable to hear her boyfriend’s voice, she was diagnosed with a rare condition called reverse-slope hearing loss, according to The Daily Mail.

The woman who was identified as Ms. Chen felt nauseous and heard ringing noises in her ears, so she decided to go to bed. The next morning, Chen woke up to find out she couldn’t hear her boyfriend, or any men, for that matter.

After a trip to the hospital, she was diagnosed with reverse-slope hearing loss, a rare condition that affects only about 3,000 people in the U.S. and Canada combined, according to Thigpen Hearing Center.

Here’s everything you should know about the uncommon condition that prevents you from hearing men’s voices.

If you have reverse-slope hearing loss, you can’t hear low-frequency sounds

Reverse-slope hearing loss occurs when a person can’t hear low pitch noises, Patricia Johnson, a doctor of audiology, told INSIDER. This explains why Chen couldn’t hear her boyfriend, as men’s voices tend to be lower pitched than women’s.

sad man and woman

This condition also affects how well a person can 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 explained. 

A number of factors can cause the condition

According to Johnson, there are three potential causes for reverse-slope hearing loss.

First, “a particular gene might cause certain hair cells to never develop in utero,” Johnson said. The hairs she referred to play an important role in how a person perceives different pitches and if they are damaged, hearing will be compromised.

Read more: A woman said a roach burrowed itself in her ear — and stayed there for 9 days

Reverse-slope hearing loss may also be the result of another ear condition, like Mineire’s Disease, which affects the fluid surrounding the hair cells, Johnson told INSIDER.

Lastly, a person can develop the disorder suddenly, like Chen did. A sudden development could have to do with a viral infection, but sometimes the cause remains unknown, according to Johnson.

There are some treatments for reverse-slope hearing loss, but people who inherited the condition genetically can’t be treated

Unfortunately, there are few treatment options for reverse-slope hearing loss. According to Johnson, people who have the condition due to genetics cannot do anything to reverse the damage.

If someone developed the condition overnight, however, an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physician may be able to help by trying a “steroid injection through the ear drum,” Johnson explained. In many cases, however, the effects of the condition are permanent.

While symptoms can’t always be reversed, the use of a hearing aid or implant can improve the quality of life of a person with hearing loss. “It is important that the patient receive personalized counseling regarding their communication difficulties in addition to any type of device,” Johnson said, adding that a certified doctor of audiology is the best type of healthcare professional to see in this situation.

People can prevent this rare form of hearing loss by protecting their ears. According to Johnson, any type of practice that is good for the heart is also good for the ears, like cardiovascular exercise. She also suggests being cautious in noisy environment, including when a person uses headphones.

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