You asked for help with one simple task: take out the trash. But, unfortunately, it never got done. “I Didn’t hear you”, they declare. Curious how that works, how your partner failed to hear the one thing you asked them to do. The colloquial term for this is “selective hearing,” and it’s often a sign of poor communication.
This “selective hearing” is frequently viewed as a kind of character defect. Accusing someone 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.
What is selective hearing?
You’ve most 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 phrase “selective hearing”. When you miss all the stuff you don’t want to hear but hear everything else, that’s selective hearing. You hear the bit about the chocolate ice cream, but you don’t hear the part about the calories. That sort of thing.
As a behavior, selective hearing is very common. However, most research points to males failing to hear their partners more often than women.
It may be tempting to make some assumptions about that (and the way that people are socialized certainly does play into how this behavior is contextualized). But hearing health is most likely another major factor. If your “selective hearing” begins to become more common, it might be a clue that you may have undiagnosed hearing loss.
Communication can be impacted by hearing loss
Communication will definitely be harder with undiagnosed hearing loss. You’re likely not surprised by that.
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. Maybe you start turning the volume up on your tv. When go out to your local haunt, you have a hard time hearing what people are saying. 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. This allows your hearing to gradually diminish. You hardly notice the problem until you’re at the point where you often have trouble 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 annoyance (even more aggravating when you already feel as if no one listens to you). But as it happens more and more frequently, irritation may turn to concern.
So, your partner may suggest you set up a hearing exam to determine if something is wrong.
Your partner’s worry is significant and it’s important for you to recognize that. Have an open conversation and consider that they are coming from a place of caring and not just aggravation.
Early hearing loss has a few other signs
You should watch out for some of the other early warning signs of hearing loss if your selective hearing appears to be getting worse. Some of those signs include:
- Hearing in crowds is difficult
- Requesting that people speak slower and talk louder
- Consonants are hard to make out
- When people talk it sounds distant or muffled
- Turning the volume up on your devices
You should contact us for a hearing exam if you experience any of these symptoms.
Wear ear protection
Protecting your hearing is so critical to preventing hearing loss. Limit your exposure to noisy settings (or at least use earmuffs or earplugs when you have to be around noise). Hearing aids can also help you have more effective communication, 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 the majority of selective hearing incidents in your life. But when you (or somebody around you) notices your selective hearing getting worse, you may want to take that as an indication that it’s time to get your hearing assessed.