You asked for help with one simple chore: take the trash out. But, unfortunately, it never was accomplished. “I Didn’t hear you”, they declare. Why aren’t you surprised that your partner failed to hear the one thing they needed done? The popular term for this is “selective hearing,” and it’s often a sign of failed communication.
We tend to view selective hearing as a negative, kind of like it’s a character flaw. It’s like you’re accusing someone of intentionally not listening. But selective hearing may actually be related to untreated hearing loss rather than a short attention span.
What is selective hearing?
You’ve likely had at least one or more situations in your life where somebody has accused you of not listening, even if no one specifically used the term “selective hearing”. Selective hearing happens when you can clearly hear information that’s useful to you but conveniently miss the bit that’s negative. You hear the part about making a delicious meal but miss the part about cleaning up the dishes. Things like that.
As a behavior, selective hearing is incredibly common. But this behavior is more common in men than women, according to some studies.
It may be tempting to make some assumptions about that (and the way that people are socialized definitely does play a part in how this behavior is contextualized). But the other part of the equation might have something to do with hearing health. Let’s say your “selective hearing” starts to become more prominent or more common. That could actually be an early sign of hearing loss.
Hearing loss can cause gaps in communication
Communication will certainly be more difficult with undiagnosed hearing loss. You’re probably not shocked by that.
But here’s the thing: oftentimes, communication issues are a sign of hearing loss.
Symptoms can be very hard to notice when hearing loss is in the early phases. Perhaps you start cranking the volume up on your tv. When go out to your local haunt, you have a difficult time hearing conversations. It’s likely because the music is so loud, right? And so, other than that, you could go through most of your daily life without giving much notice to the volume of the world around you. Your hearing can slowly deteriorate because of this. Up to the time you’re having problems following along with daily conversations, you almost don’t notice.
Your hearing health is worrying your partner
You will notice some of the people in your life are beginning to be concerned. Yes, selective hearing is a rather common annoyance (even more annoying when you already feel as if no one listens to you). But that frustration often turns to worry when they acknowledge that hearing loss may be the actual 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 recognize that. Have an open discussion and consider that they have a caring attitude and not just aggravation.
Early hearing loss has a few other indicators
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:
- Needing to ask others to speak up or slow down
- People sound far-away or muffled when they speak
- Cranking up the volume on your devices
- Having a hard time making out consonants
- Hearing in crowds is challenging
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s worth calling us and getting a hearing test.
Wear ear protection
It’s essential that you take steps to safeguard your ears in order to prevent hearing loss. Minimize your exposure to loud settings (or at least wear earmuffs or earplugs when you have to be around noise). Any feathers that you might have ruffled with your selective hearing can be smoothed over by using hearing aids to communicate more successfully.
In most situations throughout your life, selective hearing will be an artifact of a waning attention span. But you might want to take it as a sign that it’s time for a hearing test when people around you begin to observe your selective hearing getting worse.