The Nature of Selective Hearing

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

You asked for help with one basic chore: take out the trash. But, regrettably, it never got done. When you ask why they didn’t do it, your partner responds “I never heard you ask me”. Crazy how that works, how your partner didn’t hear the one thing you requested from them. The popular term for this is “selective hearing,” and it’s usually a sign of poor communication.

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

What is selective hearing?

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 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 cooking a delicious meal but miss the part about cleaning up the dishes. That kind of thing.

It’s extremely common for people to have selective hearing behavior. However, most research points to males failing to hear their partners more frequently than women.

It may be tempting to make some assumptions about that (and the way that individuals are socialized definitely does play into how this behavior is contextualized). But hearing health is probably another major component. Let’s say your “selective hearing” starts to become more prominent or more common. That could actually be an early indication of hearing loss.

Hearing loss can create gaps in communication

Communication will certainly be harder with undiagnosed hearing loss. That’s probably not that shocking.

But one notable indication of hearing loss is communication problems.

When hearing loss is in those really early stages, there aren’t going to be very many apparent symptoms. Perhaps you start cranking the volume on your tv up. You can’t quite hear what your friend is saying when you go out for a beverage at your local pub. It’s probably because the music is so loud, right? But besides situations like that, you may never even observe how loud daily sounds can be. This allows your hearing to slowly (but surely) deteriorate. You hardly notice the problem until you’re at the point where you regularly have difficulty hearing conversations.

Your partner is becoming worried about the health of your hearing

You will notice some of the people close to you are starting to worry. Yes, selective hearing is a fairly common aggravation (even more frustrating when you already feel as if no one listens to you). But as it turns out more and more frequently, irritation might 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 significant to pay attention to your partner’s concerns. Have an open conversation and consider that they have a caring attitude and not just aggravation.

Other early signs of hearing loss

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:

  • Trouble hearing in crowds
  • Cranking the volume up on your devices
  • Having a hard time distinguishing consonants
  • Requesting that people talk slower and speak up
  • Speech sounds distant or muffled

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

Always protect your hearing

Protecting your hearing is so essential to preventing hearing loss. Reduce your exposure to noisy settings (or at least use earmuffs or earplugs when you must 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 successfully.

A diminishing attention span will be responsible for the majority of selective hearing incidents in your life. But you might want to take it as an indication 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.