Imagine the opposite scenario to What Women Want. Instead of waking up with a newfound ability to hear women's thoughts, à la Mel Gibson (or Taraji P. Henson for 2019's gender-switch take on the film), you wake up having lost the ability to hear men, full stop.
That is what happened to a woman called Chen from Xiamen, a port city on the southeast coast of China, according to The Daily Mail. She knew something wasn't quite right when she woke up one morning to find she couldn't hear a word her boyfriend was saying.
Presumably, a little unnerved, she checked into Qianpu Hospital to see an ear, nose and throat specialist, where she was able to hear her doctor speak but not, bizarrely, a patient who walked into the room. Her doctor was a woman. The patient was a man.
It wasn't long before Chen was diagnosed with an auditory condition called reverse-slope hearing loss (or RSHL), which refers to the patient's inability to hear low frequencies. It's not just male voices they struggle with but any particularly low sound, including voices over the phone, the hum of a car, and thunder. According to Thigpen Hearing Center, many people with this condition don't even realize they have it.
It is also extremely uncommon. Again according to Thigpen Hearing Center, roughly 3,000 people in the US and Canada have the condition. That is just one in every 12,000 incidents of hearing loss.
Instead, the vast majority of people who have some type of hearing loss have what is called ski-slope hearing loss. Aka a difficulty in identifying high frequency. That can include the voices of women and children, which tend to be higher pitched than male voices. Because of the way it is shaped on an audiogram – a diagonal slope from the top left-hand corner to the bottom right-hand corner – it gets its name, ski-slope. RSHL is the opposite, hence its name, reverse-slope hearing loss.
It has been linked to genetics and can be triggered by certain diseases (for example, Ménière’s disease) and viral infections. It can also be caused by changes in the pressure of the fluid in the inner ear, endolymph, which itself can be the result of spinal or general anesthesia, intracranial hypertension, and a perilymphatic fistula.
According to reports, Chen had experience ringing in the ear and vomiting the night before and her doctors attributed it to stress and a lack of sleep. The good news is, just like Gibson and Henson, she is expected to make a full recovery.