The Dynamics of Selective Hearing

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

You asked for help with one basic chore: take out the trash. But, unfortunately, it never was accomplished. When you ask why they didn’t do it, your partner replies “I never heard you ask me”. Why are you not surprised that your partner failed to hear the one thing they wanted done? This “selective hearing” is a normal indication that communication is failing.

We have the tendency to think of selective hearing as a negative, kind of like it’s a character flaw. It’s as if you’re accusing somebody of purposely not listening. But it’s possible that the actual culprit behind your selective hearing might not be a short attention span, it may 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 particular term. Selective hearing occurs when you can clearly hear information that’s beneficial to you but conveniently miss the part that’s negative. You hear the part about cooking a delicious meal but miss the part about cleaning up the dishes. Things like that.

As a behavior, selective hearing is incredibly common. However, most studies point to males failing to hear their partners more frequently than women.

It might be tempting to draw some social conclusions from that (and the way that individuals are socialized certainly does play into how this behavior is contextualized). But hearing health is likely another major factor. Let’s say your “selective hearing” starts to become more prominent or more common. That could actually be an early sign of hearing loss.

Hearing loss can produce gaps in communication

Undiagnosed hearing loss can certainly make communication much more challenging. You’re likely not surprised by that.

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

When hearing loss is in those very early phases, there won’t be very many noticeable symptoms. Maybe you start cranking 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 presume it’s because of the loud music. But besides scenarios like that, you might never even observe how loud day-to-day sounds can be. This lets your hearing gradually diminish. You barely notice the problem until you’re at the point where you often have difficulty hearing conversations.

Your hearing health is concerning your partner

The people close to you will likely be concerned. Your family and friends will most likely be irritated when they think you’re deliberately missing what they say. But as it happens more and more frequently, aggravation might turn to concern.

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

Your partner’s worry is relevant and it’s important for you to recognize that. Have an open discussion and consider that they have a caring attitude and not just aggravation.

Early hearing loss has a few other indicators

If your selective hearing is getting worse over time, it may be worth keeping an eye out for some of these other early indications of hearing loss. Here are a few of those signs:

  • Hearing in crowds is challenging
  • Having a difficult time distinguishing consonants
  • People sound far-away or muted when they speak
  • Needing to ask people to talk louder or slow down
  • Cranking up the volume on your devices

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

Wear ear protection

It’s crucial that you take measures to protect your ears so that you can prevent hearing loss. Limit your exposure to noisy environments (or at least wear 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 using hearing aids to communicate more effectively.

A diminishing attention span will be to blame for the majority of selective hearing incidents in your life. But when you (or somebody around you) observes your selective hearing becoming worse, you might want to take that as a sign that it’s time to get 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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