The Nature of Selective Hearing

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

The only one thing that you asked for was for the trash to be taken out. But, unfortunately, it never got done. When you ask why it didn’t get done, your partner says “I never heard you ask me”. Why aren’t you surprised that your partner failed to hear the one thing they wanted done? 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 kind of character defect. It’s like you’re accusing someone of intentionally not listening. But it’s possible that the real cause behind your selective hearing might not be a short attention span, it may be the early stages of hearing loss.

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”. Selective hearing occurs when you can clearly hear information that’s useful 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.

It might be tempting to make some assumptions about that (and the way that individuals are socialized certainly does play a part in how this behavior is contextualized). 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 could be an indication that you may have undiagnosed hearing loss.

Communication can be impacted by hearing loss

Communication will undoubtedly be harder with undiagnosed hearing loss. That’s most likely not that surprising.

But one notable sign of hearing loss is communication issues.

When hearing loss is in those very early stages, there won’t be a lot of obvious symptoms. Your tv may get a bit louder. You can’t quite hear what your friend is saying when you stop for a beverage at your local tavern. It’s most likely because the music is so loud, right? And so, other than that, you could go through most of your daily life without even noticing the volume of the world around you. This allows your hearing to gradually deteriorate. You hardly notice the issue until you’re at the point where you regularly have difficulty hearing conversations.

Your hearing health is worrying your partner

You will notice some of the people close to you are starting to worry. Your family and friends will most likely be frustrated when they think you’re deliberately missing what they say. But that frustration often turns to worry when they recognize that hearing loss may be the real culprit.

So, your partner may recommend you set up a hearing exam to find out if something is wrong.

Your partner’s worry is relevant and it’s essential for you to acknowledge that. Talk openly with them and welcome their help because they care about your well-being and aren’t just annoyed with you.

Other early signs of hearing loss

You should watch out for some of the other early warning signs of hearing loss if your selective hearing appears to be getting worse. Here are some of those signs:

  • Requesting that people talk slower and talk louder
  • Turning the volume up on your devices
  • Consonants are hard to distinguish
  • When people talk it sounds distant or muffled
  • Hearing in crowds is challenging

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s worth calling us and getting a hearing test.

Use ear protection

It’s essential that you take steps to protect your ears so that you can prevent hearing loss. Minimize your exposure to loud environments (or at least wear earmuffs or earplugs when you must be around noise). Hearing aids can also help you communicate effectively, which can smooth over many rough spots that your hearing loss may have caused in the first place.

A diminishing attention span will be to blame for the majority of selective hearing situations in your life. But you may want to take it as an indication that it’s time to get a hearing test when people around you start to observe 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.