Diving into 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 the trash out. But, regrettably, it never was accomplished. When you ask why they didn’t do it, your partner responds “I never heard you ask me”. Why aren’t you surprised that your partner didn’t hear the one thing they needed done? The colloquial term for this is “selective hearing,” and it’s often a sign of failing communication.

We normally view selective hearing as a negative, sort of like it’s a character defect. Accusing somebody of selective hearing is implying they weren’t listening to you. But selective hearing might actually be connected to untreated hearing loss instead of 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 specific term. When you miss all the stuff 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.

It’s very common for people to have selective hearing behavior. But this behavior is more prevalent in men than women, according to some studies.

It may be tempting to draw some social conclusions from that (and the way that individuals are socialized definitely does play a part in how this behavior is contextualized). But hearing health is likely another major factor. Let’s say your “selective hearing” begins to become more prominent or more common. That could actually be an early sign of hearing loss.

Hearing loss can produce gaps in communication

Undiagnosed hearing loss can definitely make communication much more difficult. That’s probably not that shocking.

But one prominent sign of hearing loss is communication issues.

Symptoms can be really hard to notice when hearing loss is in the early stages. Your tv may get a little louder. You can’t quite hear what your friend is saying when you stop for a beverage at your local bar. It’s probably because the music is so loud, right? But besides scenarios like that, you might never even notice how loud everyday sounds can be. Your hearing can slowly decline because of this. You barely notice the issue until you’re at the point where you regularly have difficulty hearing conversations.

Your partner is becoming worried about the health of your hearing

The people close to you will probably be concerned. Yes, selective hearing is a rather common aggravation (even more irritating when you already feel like no one is listening to you). But that frustration often turns to concern when they acknowledge 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.

It’s important to pay attention to your partner’s concerns. Talk openly with them and welcome their help because they care about your well-being and aren’t just aggravated with you.

Other early indications of hearing loss

If your selective hearing has become worse over time, it may be worth keeping an eye out for some of these other early indications of hearing loss. Here are a few of those signs:

  • Requesting that people talk slower and speak up
  • Consonants are hard to make out
  • Cranking up the volume on your mobile phone, television, or radio
  • Hearing in crowds is difficult
  • Speech sounds distant or muffled

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

Always protect your hearing

It’s critical that you take measures to protect your ears in order to prevent hearing loss. Limit your exposure to noisy settings (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 successfully.

In most cases throughout your life, selective hearing will be an artifact of a waning attention span. But when you (or somebody around you) notices your selective hearing becoming worse, you may want to take that as a sign that it’s time to have your hearing checked.

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.