You asked for help with one basic chore: take out the trash. A little bit 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 aren’t you surprised that your partner didn’t hear the one thing they needed done? This “selective hearing” is a common indication that communication is breaking down.
We have the tendency to view selective hearing as a negative, kind of like it’s a character flaw. It’s like you’re accusing someone of purposely not listening. But selective hearing might actually be related to untreated hearing loss instead of a short attention span.
What is selective hearing?
You’ve most likely had at least one or more scenarios in your life where someone has accused you of not listening, even if no one specifically used the phrase “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 kind of thing.
As a behavior, selective hearing is very common. But this behavior is more prevalent in men than women, according to some research.
How individuals are socialized does provide some context and it might be tempting to draw some social conclusions from this. But the other part of the picture may have something to do with hearing health. Let’s say your “selective hearing” begins to become more prominent or more common. That could actually be an early sign of hearing loss.
Communication can be impacted by hearing loss
Communication will certainly be harder with undiagnosed hearing loss. That’s likely not that surprising.
But one prominent indication of hearing loss is communication problems.
When hearing loss is in those very early phases, there won’t be very many apparent symptoms. Perhaps you begin cranking the volume on your tv up. When go out to your local haunt, you have a difficult 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 daily life without giving much notice to the volume of the world around you. This allows your hearing to slowly (but surely) diminish. You scarcely notice the issue until you’re at the point where you frequently have trouble hearing conversations.
Your partner is becoming concerned about the health of your hearing
The people close to you will most likely be worried. Yes, selective hearing is a fairly common irritation (even more irritating when you already feel like no one is listening to you). But as it turns out more and more often, aggravation 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.
Other early indications of hearing loss
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. Some of those signs include:
- Needing to ask people to speak up or slow down
- Hearing in crowds is difficult
- Having a difficult time distinguishing consonants
- People sound distant or muffled when they speak
- Turning up the volume on your devices
You should contact us for a hearing exam if you have any of these symptoms.
Always protect your hearing
Safeguarding your hearing is so essential to preventing 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 communicate effectively, which can smooth over many rough patches that your hearing loss may have caused in the first place.
A diminishing attention span will be responsible for most selective hearing situations in your life. But when you (or someone around you) notices your selective hearing getting worse, you might want to take that as a sign that it’s time to get your hearing assessed.