Diving into 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 out the trash. But, regrettably, it never was accomplished. When you ask why it didn’t get done, your partner responds “I never heard you ask me”. Crazy how that works, how your partner didn’t hear the one thing you requested from them. This “selective hearing” is a normal indication that communication is breaking down.

This “selective hearing” is frequently viewed as a sort of character flaw. It’s as if you’re accusing someone of purposely not listening. But selective hearing may actually be connected to untreated hearing loss instead of a short attention span.

What is selective hearing?

You’ve most likely been accused of selective hearing at some point in your life, even if nobody used that particular term. 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 miss the part about the calories. That kind of thing.

It’s really common for people to have selective hearing behavior. However, most research points to men failing to hear their partners more frequently than women.

How individuals are socialized does offer some context and it may be tempting to draw some social conclusions from this. But the other part of the equation might have something to do with hearing health. If your “selective hearing” starts to become more common, it might be an indication that you may have undiagnosed hearing loss.

Communication can be impacted by hearing loss

Undiagnosed hearing loss can indeed make communication a lot harder. That’s likely not that shocking.

But here’s the thing: in many cases, communication problems are a sign of hearing loss.

When hearing loss is in those really early stages, there won’t be very many apparent symptoms. Perhaps you start turning the volume up on your tv. You can’t quite hear what your friend is saying when you go out for a beverage at your local tavern. It’s probably because the music is so loud, right? And so, besides that, you could go through the majority of your everyday life without even noticing the volume of the world around you. Your hearing can gradually decline because of this. You barely notice the problem until you’re at the point where you often have difficulty hearing conversations.

Your partner is becoming worried about the health of your hearing

The people close to you will probably be worried. Your family and friends will likely be frustrated when they think you’re intentionally ignoring what they say. But as it happens more and more often, aggravation might turn to worry.

And your partner may want you to find out what’s going on by having you schedule a hearing test.

Your partner’s concern is relevant and it’s important for you to acknowledge that. Have an open conversation and consider that they have a caring attitude and not just annoyance.

Early hearing loss has a few other signs

If your selective hearing has become worse over time, it might be worth watching out for some of these other early indications of hearing loss. Here are some of those signs:

  • People sound distant or muffled when they talk
  • Requesting that people talk slower and speak up
  • Cranking up the volume on your mobile phone, television, or radio
  • Hearing in crowds is challenging
  • Having a difficult time distinguishing consonants

If you have any of these symptoms, you should call us for a hearing test.

Always protect your hearing

It’s crucial that you take steps to protect your ears so that you can prevent hearing loss. Limit your exposure to loud settings (or at least use earmuffs or earplugs when you must be around noise). 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 cases throughout your life, selective hearing will be an artifact of a diminishing attention span. But you might want to take it as an indication that it’s time for 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.