Diving into the Dynamics of Selective Hearing

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

You asked for help with one simple chore: take the trash out. But, unfortunately, it never was accomplished. “I Didn’t hear you”, they state. Curious how that works, how your partner failed to hear the one thing you requested from them. The colloquial term for this is “selective hearing,” and it’s often a sign of failing communication.

We tend to view selective hearing as a negative, almost like it’s a character flaw. It’s as if you’re accusing someone of intentionally not listening. But it’s possible that the real culprit behind your selective hearing may not be a short attention span, it might be the early phases of hearing loss.

Selective hearing – what is it?

You’ve probably been accused of selective hearing at some point in your life, even if no one used that specific name. When you miss all the things you don’t want to hear but hear everything else, that’s selective hearing. You hear the part about making a delicious meal but miss the part about cleaning up the dishes. Things like that.

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

It may be tempting to make some assumptions about that (and the way that people are socialized definitely does play into how this behavior is contextualized). But the other part of the picture may have something to do with hearing health. If your “selective hearing” starts to become more common, it might be a clue that you may have undiagnosed hearing loss.

Communication can be impacted by hearing loss

Undiagnosed hearing loss can definitely make communication much harder. You’re likely not surprised by that.

But one prominent indication of hearing loss is communication issues.

When hearing loss is in those really early phases, there aren’t going to be very many obvious symptoms. Maybe you begin turning the volume on your tv up. You can’t quite hear what your friend is saying when you stop for a drink at your local bar. You probably just assume it’s because of the loud music. 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 slowly decline because of this. Up to the time you’re having trouble following daily conversations, you almost don’t notice.

Your hearing health is worrying your partner

The people close to you will probably be worried. Your family and friends will likely be irritated when they think you’re intentionally ignoring what they say. But that frustration often becomes worry when they acknowledge that hearing loss could be the actual culprit.

So, your partner may recommend you schedule a hearing test to determine if something is wrong.

Your partner’s worry is significant and it’s essential for you to recognize that. Have an open conversation and consider that they have a caring attitude and not just annoyance.

Other early indications of hearing loss

If your selective hearing is getting worse over time, it may be worth watching out for some of these other early indications of hearing loss. A few of those signs include:

  • Requesting that people talk slower and talk louder
  • Difficulty hearing in crowds
  • Consonants are hard to distinguish
  • Turning the volume up on your mobile phone, television, or radio
  • Speech sounds distant or muffled

You should call us for a hearing exam if you experience any of these symptoms.

Use ear protection

It’s critical that you take measures to safeguard your ears so that you can prevent hearing loss. If you can’t stay away from overly loud noise, be certain that you use hearing protection, like muffs or plugs. Hearing aids can also help you have more effective communication, which can smooth over many rough spots that your hearing loss may have caused in the first place.

In most circumstances throughout your life, selective hearing will be an artifact of a waning attention span. But you might want to take it as a sign that it’s time to get a hearing test when people around you begin to notice your selective hearing getting worse.

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.