The Dynamics of Selective Hearing

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

You asked for help with one basic task: take the trash out. But, regrettably, it never got done. When you ask why they didn’t do it, your partner responds “I never heard you ask me”. Curious how that works, how your partner didn’t hear the one thing you requested from them. The colloquial term for this is “selective hearing,” and it’s often a sign of poor communication.

We often think of selective hearing as a negative, almost like it’s a character flaw. It’s as if you’re accusing someone of purposely not listening. But selective hearing may actually be related to untreated hearing loss rather than a short attention span.

What is selective hearing?

You’ve most likely been accused of selective hearing at some time in your life, even if nobody used that particular name. Selective hearing happens when you can clearly hear information that’s helpful to you but conveniently miss the bit 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 extremely common. However, most studies point to men failing to hear their partners more often than women.

How individuals are socialized does give some context and it may be tempting to draw some social conclusions from this. But the other part of the picture may have something to do with hearing health. If your “selective hearing” starts to become more common, it might be a clue that you may have undiagnosed hearing loss.

Communication can be impacted by hearing loss

Undiagnosed hearing loss can definitely make communication a great deal harder. You’re most likely not shocked by that.

But one notable sign of hearing loss is communication problems.

Symptoms can be very difficult to detect when hearing loss is in the early phases. Your tv might get a bit louder. You can’t quite hear what your friend is saying when you go out for a drink at your local bar. It’s most likely because the music is so loud, right? And so, besides that, you could go through most of your day-to-day life without even noticing the volume of the world around you. This allows your hearing to gradually decline. You barely notice the problem until you’re at the point where you regularly have difficulty hearing conversations.

Your hearing health is worrying your partner

The people close to you will likely be worried. Your family and friends will most likely be annoyed when they think you’re intentionally missing what they say. But that frustration often turns to worry when they acknowledge that hearing loss may be the actual culprit.

And your partner may want you to find out what’s going on by having you schedule a hearing test.

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

Early hearing loss has a few other indicators

If your selective hearing has become worse over time, it may be worth watching out for some of these other early indications of hearing loss. A few of those signs include:

  • Cranking up the volume on your mobile phone, television, or radio
  • Having a difficult time distinguishing consonants
  • Having to ask people to talk louder or slow down
  • People sound far-away or muffled when they speak
  • Difficulty hearing in crowds

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

Always safeguard your hearing

It’s critical that you take measures to protect your ears in order to prevent hearing loss. Reduce your exposure to noisy environments (or at least use earmuffs or earplugs when you have to be around noise). Any feathers that you might have ruffled with your selective hearing can be smoothed over by wearing hearing aids to communicate more effectively.

In most situations throughout your life, selective hearing is going to be an artifact of a waning attention span. But you might want to take it as an indication that it’s time for 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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