The Nature of Selective Hearing

Wife is annoyed by husband who appears to have selective hearing.

You asked for help with one simple task: take the trash out. A little while later you realize your partner failed to do it. When you ask why they didn’t do it, your partner responds “I never heard you ask me”. Why are you not surprised that your partner failed to hear the one thing they needed done? This “selective hearing” is a normal sign that communication is breaking down.

We normally think of selective hearing as a negative, sort of like it’s a character flaw. It’s like you’re accusing somebody of intentionally not listening. But it’s possible that the actual cause behind your selective hearing may not be a short attention span, it may be the early phases of hearing loss.

Selective hearing – what is it?

You’ve likely had at least one or more scenarios in your life where someone has accused you of not listening, even if no one specifically used the phrase “selective hearing”. When you miss all the stuff you don’t want to hear but hear everything else, that’s selective hearing. You hear the bit about the chocolate cake, but you don’t hear the part about the calories. Things like that.

It’s extremely common for people to have selective hearing behavior. However, most studies point to males failing to hear their partners more frequently than women.

How individuals are socialized does provide some context and it may be tempting to make some assumptions from this. But hearing health is most likely another major aspect. Let’s say your “selective hearing” starts to become more prevalent or more common. That could actually be an early sign of hearing loss.

Hearing loss can cause gaps in communication

Communication will certainly be more difficult with undiagnosed hearing loss. You’re likely not surprised by that.

But one prominent indication of hearing loss is communication problems.

When hearing loss is in those very early phases, there won’t be very many apparent symptoms. Maybe you begin turning the volume on your tv up. When go out to your local haunt, you have a hard time hearing what people are saying. It’s probably because the music is so loud, right? And so, besides that, you could go through most of your daily life without giving much notice to the volume of the world around you. Your hearing can gradually deteriorate because of this. You hardly notice the problem until you’re at the point where you regularly have difficulty hearing conversations.

Your partner is becoming worried about the health of your hearing

The people close to you will likely be worried. Yes, selective hearing is a rather common irritation (even more frustrating when you already feel as if no one listens to you). But as it turns out more and more frequently, irritation may turn to worry.

So, your partner may recommend you schedule a hearing exam to find out if something is wrong.

It’s important to listen to your partner’s concerns. Have an open conversation and consider that they are coming from a place of caring and not just annoyance.

Early hearing loss has a few other signs

You should be aware of some of the other early warning signs of hearing loss if your selective hearing appears to be getting worse. Here are some of those signs:

  • People sound far-away or muffled when they speak
  • Difficulty hearing in crowds
  • Turning up the volume on your mobile phone, television, or radio
  • Having a hard time distinguishing consonants
  • Having to ask others to speak up or slow down

You should call us for a hearing test if you have any of these symptoms.

Always safeguard your hearing

It’s crucial that you take measures to protect your ears in order to prevent hearing loss. Reduce your exposure to loud environments (or at least use earmuffs or earplugs when you must be around noise). Any feathers that you might have ruffled with your selective hearing can be smoothed over by wearing hearing aids to communicate more successfully.

A diminishing attention span will be to blame for the majority of selective hearing situations in your life. But when you (or somebody around you) observes your selective hearing getting worse, you might want to take that as an indication that it’s time to have your hearing checked.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.


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