You asked for help with one simple task: take the trash out. A little bit later you realize your partner didn’t do it. When you ask why it didn’t get done, your partner replies “I never heard you ask me”. Crazy how that works, how your partner didn’t hear the one thing you requested from them. The colloquial term for this is “selective hearing,” and it’s often a sign of failing communication.
We have the tendency to think of selective hearing as a negative, almost like it’s a character flaw. It’s like you’re accusing somebody of deliberately not listening. But it’s possible that the real culprit behind your selective hearing might not be a short attention span, it may be the early stages of hearing loss.
What is selective hearing?
You’ve likely been accused of selective hearing at some time in your life, even if nobody used that specific name. Selective hearing happens when you can clearly hear information that’s beneficial to you but conveniently miss the part that’s negative. You hear the part about making a delicious meal but miss the part about cleaning up the dishes. That sort of thing.
It’s very common for people to have selective hearing behavior. However, most research points to men failing to hear their partners more often than women.
It might be tempting to draw some social conclusions from that (and the way that individuals are socialized definitely does play a part in how this behavior is contextualized). But the other part of the equation may 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 indication of hearing loss.
Communication can be impacted by hearing loss
Undiagnosed hearing loss can definitely make communication much more difficult. You’re most likely not shocked by that.
But one prominent sign of hearing loss is communication issues.
Symptoms can be very difficult to detect when hearing loss is in the early phases. Maybe you begin turning the volume on your tv up. When go out to your local haunt, you have a difficult time hearing what people are saying. It’s probably because the music is so loud, right? But besides scenarios like that, you may never even notice how loud everyday sounds can be. This allows your hearing to slowly (but surely) decline. You hardly notice the problem until you’re at the point where you frequently have difficulty hearing conversations.
Your hearing health is worrying your partner
The people close to you will likely be worried. Yes, selective hearing is a relatively common irritation (even more irritating when you already feel like nobody listens to you). But as it turns out more and more often, irritation may turn to worry.
So, your partner may suggest you schedule a hearing exam to determine if something is wrong.
It’s significant to pay attention to your partner’s concerns. Have an open discussion and consider that they have a caring attitude and not just aggravation.
Other early signs of hearing loss
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:
- Consonants are hard to make out
- Cranking the volume up on your mobile phone, television, or radio
- People sound distant or muted when they speak
- Needing to ask others to speak up or slow down
- Hearing in crowds is difficult
If you experience 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 protect your ears in order to prevent hearing loss. Minimize your exposure to noisy environments (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 wearing hearing aids to communicate more effectively.
In most circumstances throughout your life, selective hearing will be an artifact of a diminishing attention span. But when you (or someone around you) notices your selective hearing becoming worse, you may want to take that as a sign that it’s time to get your hearing checked.