The Dynamics of Selective Hearing

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

You asked for help with one simple task: take the trash out. But, regrettably, it never was accomplished. When you ask why they didn’t do it, your partner says “I never heard you ask me”. Curious how that works, how your partner failed to hear the one thing you asked them to do. The popular term for this is “selective hearing,” and it’s often a sign of failing communication.

This “selective hearing” is often viewed as a sort of character defect. Accusing somebody of selective hearing is implying they weren’t listening to you. But selective hearing could actually be related to untreated hearing loss rather than a short attention span.

Selective hearing – what is it?

You’ve most likely had at least one or more scenarios in your life where somebody 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 making a delicious meal but miss the part about cleaning up the dishes. That sort of thing.

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

How individuals are socialized does provide some context and it may be tempting to draw some social conclusions from this. But the other part of the situation might 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 certainly make communication a great deal more challenging. That’s likely not that surprising.

But here’s the thing: in many cases, communication problems are a sign of hearing loss.

Symptoms can be really hard to detect when hearing loss is in the early stages. Your tv may get a bit louder. When go out to your local haunt, you have a hard time hearing conversations. You most likely just assume it’s because of the loud music. And so, other than that, you could go through the majority of your day-to-day life without giving much notice to the volume of the world around you. This lets your hearing slowly (but surely) deteriorate. Up to the time you’re having problems following along with daily conversations, you almost don’t notice.

Your partner is becoming concerned about the health of your hearing

You will notice some of the people close to you are starting to be concerned. Yes, selective hearing is a rather common aggravation (even more frustrating when you already feel like nobody listens to you). But as it turns out more and more frequently, irritation may turn to concern.

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 are coming from a place of caring and not just aggravation.

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 signs of hearing loss. Here are some of those signs:

  • Consonants are hard to make out
  • Cranking the volume up on your devices
  • People sound far-away or muted when they talk
  • Requesting that people talk slower and speak up
  • Hearing in crowds is challenging

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

Wear ear protection

It’s critical that you take steps to protect your ears so that you can prevent hearing loss. Reduce your exposure to noisy settings (or at least wear earmuffs or earplugs when you must be around noise). Hearing aids can also help you have more effective communication, which can smooth over many rough patches that your hearing loss might have caused in the first place.

A diminishing attention span will be responsible for most selective hearing incidents in your life. But you might want to take it as a sign that it’s time for 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.