The Nature of Selective Hearing

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

The only one thing that you requested was for the trash to be taken out. A little while later you realize your partner didn’t do it. When you ask why they didn’t do it, your partner says “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 sign that communication is breaking down.

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

What is selective hearing?

You’ve likely 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 phrase “selective hearing”. 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 ice cream, but you miss the part about the calories. Things like that.

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

It might be tempting to make some assumptions about that (and the way that people are socialized certainly does play a part in how this behavior is contextualized). But hearing health is likely another major aspect. Let’s say your “selective hearing” begins to become more prevalent or more common. That could actually be an early indication of hearing loss.

Communication can be impacted by hearing loss

Undiagnosed hearing loss can certainly make communication a great deal more challenging. That’s probably not that surprising.

But one prominent sign of hearing loss is communication issues.

Symptoms can be really hard to notice when hearing loss is in the early phases. Perhaps you start turning the volume up on your tv. When go out to your local haunt, you have a hard time hearing what people are saying. You probably just presume it’s because of the loud music. But besides situations like that, you might never even observe how loud daily sounds can be. Your hearing can slowly deteriorate because of this. You hardly notice the problem until you’re at the point where you regularly have trouble hearing conversations.

Your hearing health is concerning your partner

The people around you will most likely be concerned. Yes, selective hearing is a fairly common irritation (even more irritating when you already feel as if no one listens to you). But as it happens more and more frequently, aggravation may turn to concern.

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

Your partner’s worry is significant and it’s important for you to acknowledge that. Have an open discussion and consider that they are coming from a place of caring and not just aggravation.

Early hearing loss has a few other signs

You should watch out for some of the other early warning signs of hearing loss if your selective hearing seems to be getting worse. A few of those signs include:

  • Cranking the volume up on your mobile phone, television, or radio
  • Having a difficult time distinguishing consonants
  • When people talk it sounds distant or muffled
  • Needing to ask people to speak up or slow down
  • Hearing in crowds is challenging

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

Wear ear protection

Protecting your hearing is so crucial to preventing hearing loss. If you can’t avoid overly loud noise, be certain that you use hearing protection, like muffs or plugs. Hearing aids can also help you communicate effectively, which can smooth over many rough spots that your hearing loss might have caused in the first place.

In most situations throughout your life, selective hearing will be an artifact of a waning attention span. But you may want to take it as a signal that it’s time to get 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.

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    Dr. Laura Padham, Audiologist

    Ocean Gate, NJ

    143 W Barnegat Avenue
    Ocean Gate, NJ 08740

    Mobile Services in:Ocean, Monmouth, Middlesex, Somerset, Union, Essex, Hudson, Bergen, Passaic, Atlantic, Mercer, and Burlington Counties.

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