Woman Loses Sound of Men’s Voices: A Closer Look at Hearing Loss

You may have heard the recent story of a woman from Xiamen, China, who woke up one morning recently to find that she could not hear her boyfriend’s voice. In fact, she couldn’t hear any male voice—her ears suddenly could only register frequencies that were at a woman’s average pitch or higher. “Talk about selective hearing!” says Dr. Brittany Beeg, an audiologist at Chicago ENT. “What a funny world we would live in if hearing loss would only select for certain voices!” 

The hearing loss experienced by this woman is called “reverse-slope hearing loss.” It is a condition where people are able to hear higher frequencies, but lower frequencies are reduced. With typical hearing loss, people lose higher frequencies first. Her condition is temporary and doctors believe it is caused by stress. If you were ever to have a drastic change in hearing, you should be assessed by an Ear Nose and Throat physician, who can diagnose the problem and recommend changes. Often, a sudden drastic hearing loss requires medical attention (rather than just sleep, like the woman in the article is recommended). 

Unlike this woman’s condition, debilitating hearing loss that happens over time is actually far more common. In fact, it is estimated by the World Health Organization that 466 million people across the world experience disabling hear loss. “Unfortunately, typical hearing loss affects the vast majority of people in a more lasting way that can significantly impact many aspects of daily life,” says Dr. Beeg. Often hear loss is caused by excessive noise exposure or just the typical aging process. 

What does typical hearing loss look like?

Hearing loss doesn’t have to mean that entire sounds disappear altogether. Dr. Beeg describes hearing loss in a way that may sound familiar to many. 

  • Clarity is missing. In typical hearing loss cases that happen over time, many patients say they can hear sounds well but speech in general is difficult to understand—whether from men, women, the TV or the phone. 
  • Pitch doesn’t matter. The frequency isn’t the issue. Speech sounds occur at different pitches and intensity, regardless of the whether the person is a man or women speaking. 
  • Volume isn’t the only problem. With hearing loss, the volume of all sound does not just get softer—sounds can become more distorted. This means that it is harder to make out certain words without looking at someone’s face or using sentence context to understand the topic of conversation, even if they are audible.

Our audiology team at Chicago ENT is always excited to help patients understand their hearing loss and find ways to treat each patient with a unique plan. If you have concerns with hearing, please do not hesitate to contact our clinic and meet with one of our specialists.

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