The Nature of Selective Hearing

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

You asked for help with one simple chore: take out the trash. A little while later you discover your partner didn’t do it. 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 didn’t hear the one thing they needed done? This “selective hearing” is a normal indication that communication is failing.

We tend to think of selective hearing as a negative, sort of like it’s a character defect. It’s like you’re accusing somebody of intentionally not listening. But selective hearing could actually be connected to untreated hearing loss instead of a short attention span.

Selective hearing – what is it?

You’ve likely 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 the chocolate ice cream, but you don’t hear the part about the calories. Things like that.

It’s extremely common for people to have selective hearing behavior. But this behavior is more common 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 certainly does play a part in how this behavior is contextualized). But hearing health is likely another major factor. Let’s say your “selective hearing” starts to become more prominent or more common. That could actually be an early sign of hearing loss.

Communication can be impacted by hearing loss

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

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

When hearing loss is in those very early stages, there won’t be very many obvious symptoms. Perhaps you start turning the volume on your tv up. You can’t quite hear what your friend is saying when you go out for a drink at your local bar. It’s likely because the music is so loud, right? And so, besides that, you could go through the majority of your everyday life without giving much notice to the volume of the world around you. Your hearing can slowly diminish because of this. You scarcely notice the issue until you’re at the point where you regularly have difficulty hearing conversations.

Your partner is becoming concerned about the health of your hearing

The people close to you will likely be concerned. Your family and friends will likely be irritated when they think you’re purposely ignoring what they say. But as it turns out more and more frequently, irritation might turn to worry.

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

It’s significant to listen to your partner’s concerns. Have an open conversation and consider that they are coming from a place of caring and not just annoyance.

Early hearing loss has a few other signs

You should be aware of some of the other early warning signs of hearing loss if your selective hearing seems to be getting worse. Here are a few of those signs:

  • Consonants are hard to distinguish
  • Difficulty hearing in crowds
  • Turning up the volume on your devices
  • Requesting that people talk slower and talk louder
  • People sound distant or muffled when they talk

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

Always safeguard your hearing

It’s essential that you take steps to protect your ears in order to prevent hearing loss. Minimize your exposure to loud environments (or at least use earmuffs or earplugs when you have to be around noise). Any feathers that you may have ruffled with your selective hearing can be smoothed over by using hearing aids to communicate more effectively.

A diminishing attention span will be to blame for the majority of selective hearing situations in your life. But when you (or someone around you) observes your selective hearing becoming worse, you may want to take that as an indication 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.