You asked for help with one basic chore: take the trash out. A little bit later you discover your partner didn’t do it. When you ask why it didn’t get done, your partner says “I never heard you ask me”. Why aren’t you surprised that your partner didn’t hear the one thing they wanted done? This “selective hearing” is a common sign that communication is failing.
This “selective hearing” is frequently viewed as a sort of character flaw. It’s like you’re accusing somebody of purposely not listening. But it’s possible that the actual cause behind your selective hearing might not be a short attention span, it may be the early phases of hearing loss.
Selective hearing – what is it?
You’ve most likely been accused of selective hearing at some point in your life, even if nobody used that specific name. Selective hearing happens when you can clearly hear information that’s useful to you but conveniently miss the part that’s negative. You hear the part about the chocolate ice cream, 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.
How individuals are socialized does provide some context and it may be tempting to make some assumptions from this. But the other part of the picture might have something to do with hearing health. Let’s say your “selective hearing” starts to become more prevalent or more common. That could actually be an early indication of hearing loss.
Hearing loss can cause gaps in communication
Communication will certainly be more difficult with undiagnosed hearing loss. That’s likely not that surprising.
But one notable sign of hearing loss is communication problems.
Symptoms can be really difficult to notice when hearing loss is in the early phases. Your tv may get a little louder. You can’t quite hear what your friend is saying when you stop for a drink at your local tavern. You probably just presume it’s because of the loud music. But besides situations like that, you may never even observe how loud everyday sounds can be. This lets your hearing gradually decline. 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 worry. Yes, selective hearing is a relatively common aggravation (even more aggravating when you already feel as if nobody is listening to you). But as it happens more and more frequently, irritation may turn to concern.
So, your partner may recommend you schedule a hearing test to find out if something is wrong.
Your partner’s concern is relevant and it’s essential 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 indicators
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:
- Requesting that people speak slower and speak up
- Consonants are hard to distinguish
- Hearing in crowds is challenging
- People sound distant or muted when they speak
- Cranking the volume up on your mobile phone, television, or radio
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s worth calling us and getting a hearing test.
Use ear protection
It’s crucial that you take steps to protect your ears so that you can prevent hearing loss. Limit your exposure to noisy settings (or at least wear earmuffs or earplugs when you must be around noise). Any feathers that you might have ruffled with your selective hearing can be smoothed over by wearing hearing aids to communicate more effectively.
A diminishing attention span will be to blame for the majority of selective hearing situations in your life. 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 assessed.