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

The only one thing that you requested was for the garbage to be taken out. A little bit later you discover your partner didn’t do it. “I Didn’t hear you”, they say. Curious how that works, how your partner failed to hear the one thing you requested from them. The colloquial term for this is “selective hearing,” and it’s often a sign of poor communication.

We normally think of selective hearing as a negative, sort of like it’s a character defect. Accusing someone of selective hearing is implying they weren’t listening to you. But selective hearing might actually be connected 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 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 the chocolate cake, but you don’t hear the part about the calories. Things like that.

As a behavior, selective hearing is incredibly common. However, most studies point 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 people are socialized definitely does play into 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” begins to become more prevalent or more common. That could actually be an early sign of hearing loss.

Communication can be impacted by hearing loss

Communication will certainly be more difficult with undiagnosed hearing loss. You’re probably not surprised by that.

But here’s the thing: oftentimes, communication issues are a sign of hearing loss.

When hearing loss is in those very early stages, there won’t be very many noticeable symptoms. Your tv might get a little louder. When go out to your local haunt, you have a difficult time hearing what people are saying. You most likely just assume it’s because of the loud music. And so, besides that, you could go through the majority of your day-to-day life without even noticing the volume of the world around you. Your hearing can slowly deteriorate because of this. You scarcely notice the issue until you’re at the point where you frequently have difficulty hearing conversations.

Your hearing health is worrying your partner

The people around you will most likely be worried. Yes, selective hearing is a relatively common irritation (even more aggravating when you already feel like nobody listens to you). But as it happens more and more often, 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.

Your partner’s worry is relevant 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.

Other early indications of hearing loss

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

  • Cranking up the volume on your mobile phone, television, or radio
  • Needing to ask people to talk louder or slow down
  • Difficulty hearing in crowds
  • People sound distant or muffled when they talk
  • Consonants are hard to distinguish

You should call us for a hearing test if you have any of these symptoms.

Wear ear protection

Protecting your hearing is so critical to preventing hearing loss. If you can’t avoid overly loud noise, be certain you use hearing protection, like muffs or plugs. Hearing aids can also help you have more effective communication, which can smooth over many rough spots that your hearing loss might have caused in the first place.

In most circumstances throughout your life, selective hearing will be an artifact of a waning attention span. But when you (or someone around you) observes your selective hearing becoming worse, you may want to take that as a sign that it’s time to have your hearing assessed.

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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.