The Dynamics 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 replies “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 failed communication.

We have the tendency to view selective hearing as a negative, kind of like it’s a character flaw. 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 someone has accused you of not listening, even if no one specifically used the term “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 part about cooking a delicious meal but miss the part about cleaning up the dishes. That sort of thing.

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

How people are socialized does offer some context and it may be tempting to draw some social conclusions from this. 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 sign of hearing loss.

Communication can be impacted by hearing loss

Undiagnosed hearing loss can definitely make communication a great deal harder. You’re likely not shocked by that.

But one notable indication of hearing loss is communication issues.

When hearing loss is in those really early phases, there aren’t going to be very many obvious symptoms. Your tv might get a little louder. When go out to your local haunt, you have a difficult time hearing conversations. You probably just presume it’s because of the loud music. But besides situations like that, you may never even notice how loud day-to-day sounds can be. Your hearing can gradually diminish because of this. 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 beginning to worry. Yes, selective hearing is a relatively common irritation (even more annoying when you already feel as if nobody is listening to you). But that aggravation often turns to concern when they acknowledge that hearing loss could be the real culprit.

And your partner may want you to find out what’s going on by having you schedule a hearing test.

Your partner’s concern is significant and it’s important for you to acknowledge that. Have an open conversation and consider that they have a caring attitude and not just aggravation.

Early hearing loss has a few other signs

If your selective hearing is getting worse over time, it may be worth keeping an eye out for some of these other early indications of hearing loss. A few of those signs include:

  • Having a tough time making out consonants
  • Trouble hearing in crowds
  • Needing to ask others to speak up or slow down
  • Turning the volume up on your devices
  • People sound distant or muffled when they talk

If you have any of these symptoms, you should call us for a hearing test.

Wear ear protection

It’s essential that you take steps to protect your ears so that you can prevent hearing loss. Reduce your exposure to noisy environments (or at least wear 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 wearing hearing aids to communicate more successfully.

In most cases throughout your life, selective hearing will be an artifact of a waning attention span. But you might want to take it as a signal that it’s time to get a hearing test when people around you begin 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.