The Dynamics of Selective Hearing

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

You asked for help with one simple task: take the trash out. A little while later you discover your partner didn’t do it. When you ask why they didn’t do it, your partner responds “I never heard you ask me”. Funny 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.

This “selective hearing” is often viewed as a sort of character flaw. It’s like you’re accusing someone of purposely not listening. But selective hearing could actually be related to untreated hearing loss rather than a short attention span.

What is selective hearing?

You’ve probably had at least one or more scenarios in your life where someone has accused you of not listening, even if no one specifically used the term “selective hearing”. 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 the chocolate cake, but you don’t hear the part about the calories. Things like that.

As a behavior, selective hearing is very common. However, most research points to men failing to hear their partners more frequently than women.

How people are socialized does provide some context and it might be tempting to make some assumptions from this. But the other part of the picture 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

Communication will undoubtedly be more difficult with undiagnosed hearing loss. You’re probably not shocked by that.

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

When hearing loss is in those really early phases, there won’t be very many apparent symptoms. Perhaps you start 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, other than that, you could go through the majority of your day-to-day life without even noticing the volume of the world around you. This lets your hearing gradually deteriorate. You barely notice the issue until you’re at the point where you frequently have difficulty hearing conversations.

Your hearing health is concerning your partner

The people close to you will likely be worried. Yes, selective hearing is a relatively common annoyance (even more frustrating when you already feel as if nobody listens to you). But that frustration often turns to concern when they recognize that hearing loss could be the real culprit.

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

It’s significant to listen to your partner’s concerns. Have an open discussion with them and welcome their help because they care about your well-being and aren’t just irritated with you.

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 signs of hearing loss. Some of those signs include:

  • People sound distant or muffled when they talk
  • Consonants are hard to distinguish
  • Requesting that people talk slower and talk louder
  • Hearing in crowds is difficult
  • Cranking the volume up on your mobile phone, television, or radio

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

Use ear protection

It’s crucial that you take steps to safeguard your ears so that you can prevent hearing loss. If you can’t avoid overly loud noise, make sure you wear 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 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 when you (or someone around you) notices your selective hearing getting worse, you may want to take that as a sign that it’s time to get your hearing tested.

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.