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 got done. 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 needed done? The popular term for this is “selective hearing,” and it’s usually a sign of failed communication.

This “selective hearing” is often viewed as a sort of character flaw. Accusing someone of selective hearing is implying they weren’t listening to you. But selective hearing may actually be connected to untreated hearing loss rather than a short attention span.

What is selective hearing?

You’ve probably had at least one or more situations in your life where someone has accused you of not listening, even if no one specifically used the term “selective hearing”. 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.

As a behavior, selective hearing is incredibly common. But this behavior is more prevalent in men than women, according to some research.

It may be tempting to draw some social conclusions from that (and the way that people are socialized definitely does play a part in how this behavior is contextualized). But the other part of the equation may have something to do with hearing health. 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 undoubtedly be more difficult with undiagnosed hearing loss. You’re likely not shocked by that.

But one prominent indication of hearing loss is communication problems.

When hearing loss is in those really early phases, there won’t be a lot of noticeable symptoms. Your tv may get a little louder. You can’t quite hear what your friend is saying when you stop for a drink at your local pub. You probably just assume it’s because of the loud music. And so, other than that, you could go through the majority of your daily life without giving much notice to the volume of the world around you. This allows your hearing to gradually decline. Up to the time you’re having problems following along with daily conversations, you almost don’t notice.

Your hearing health is worrying your partner

The people close to you will most likely be concerned. Your family and friends will probably be frustrated when they think you’re purposely ignoring what they say. But that frustration often becomes worry when they recognize that hearing loss might be the actual culprit.

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 discussion with them and accept their help because they care about your well-being and aren’t just annoyed with you.

Other early indications of hearing loss

If your selective hearing has become worse over time, it might be worth keeping an eye out for some of these other early indications of hearing loss. Some of those signs include:

  • Having a hard time distinguishing consonants
  • Hearing in crowds is difficult
  • Needing to ask people to talk louder or slow down
  • When people talk it sounds distant or muffled
  • Cranking up the volume on your devices

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s worth calling us and getting a hearing test.

Always safeguard your hearing

Safeguarding your hearing is so crucial to preventing hearing loss. Limit your exposure to noisy 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 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 waning attention span. But you might want to take it as a sign that it’s time for a hearing test when people around you start 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.