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 out the trash. A little bit later you discover your partner didn’t do it. When you ask why it didn’t get done, your partner says “I never heard you ask me”. 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 usually a sign of failed communication.

We have the tendency to view selective hearing as a negative, sort of like it’s a character defect. It’s as if you’re accusing someone of deliberately not listening. But selective hearing might actually be related to untreated hearing loss rather than a short attention span.

What is selective hearing?

You’ve probably been accused of selective hearing at some time in your life, even if nobody used that particular name. Selective hearing occurs when you can clearly hear information that’s beneficial to you but conveniently miss the bit that’s negative. You hear the part about the chocolate cake, but you miss the part about the calories. That sort of thing.

As a behavior, selective hearing is very common. However, most research points to men failing to hear their partners more often 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 likely another major component. If your “selective hearing” starts to become more common, it might be a hint that you may have undiagnosed hearing loss.

Communication can be impacted by hearing loss

Undiagnosed hearing loss can indeed make communication a lot more difficult. You’re likely not surprised by that.

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

Symptoms can be very hard to detect when hearing loss is in the early stages. Your tv may get a little louder. When go out to your local haunt, you have a difficult time hearing conversations. You most likely just presume it’s because of the loud music. But besides scenarios like that, you may never even observe how loud day-to-day sounds can be. This allows your hearing to gradually diminish. You scarcely notice the issue until you’re at the point where you often have difficulty hearing conversations.

Your partner is becoming concerned about the health of your hearing

You will notice some of the people in your life are beginning to worry. Yes, selective hearing is a rather common irritation (even more frustrating when you already feel as if nobody listens to you). But that aggravation often turns to concern when they acknowledge that hearing loss might be the real culprit.

So, your partner may suggest you set up a hearing test to find out if something is wrong.

It’s significant to pay attention to your partner’s concerns. Have an open conversation and consider that they have a caring attitude and not just annoyance.

Other early signs of hearing loss

You should be aware of some of the other early warning signs of hearing loss if your selective hearing seems to be getting worse. Some of those signs include:

  • When people talk it sounds distant or muffled
  • Requesting that people talk slower and talk louder
  • Having a tough time distinguishing consonants
  • Trouble hearing in crowds
  • Cranking up the volume on your devices

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

Always protect your hearing

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

In most cases throughout your life, selective hearing will be an artifact of a diminishing attention span. But when you (or someone around you) notices your selective hearing becoming worse, you may want to take that as an indication that it’s time to get your hearing assessed.

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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