The only one thing that you asked for was for the trash to be taken out. A little while later you discover your partner didn’t do it. “I Didn’t hear you”, they say. Crazy how that works, how your partner didn’t hear the one thing you asked them to do. The popular term for this is “selective hearing,” and it’s usually a sign of poor communication.
We tend to think of selective hearing as a negative, almost 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.
Selective hearing – what is it?
You’ve likely been accused of selective hearing at some point in your life, even if no one used that particular term. Selective hearing occurs when you can clearly hear information that’s helpful to you but conveniently miss the part that’s negative. You hear the part about cooking a delicious meal but miss the part about cleaning up the dishes. That kind of thing.
It’s extremely common for people to have selective hearing behavior. But this behavior is more prevalent 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 certainly does play a part in how this behavior is contextualized). But hearing health is probably another major factor. If your “selective hearing” starts to become more common, it might be a hint that you may have undiagnosed hearing loss.
Communication can be impacted by hearing loss
Undiagnosed hearing loss can certainly make communication a lot more challenging. You’re likely not shocked by that.
But here’s the thing: in many cases, communication issues are an indication of hearing loss.
Symptoms can be very hard to notice when hearing loss is in the early phases. Maybe you begin cranking the volume on your tv up. You can’t quite hear what your friend is saying when you stop for a beverage at your local tavern. It’s likely because the music is so loud, right? But besides situations like that, you might never even notice how loud day-to-day sounds can be. This lets your hearing gradually diminish. Up to the time you’re having trouble following daily conversations, you almost don’t notice.
Your hearing health is concerning your partner
You will notice some of the people close to you are starting to worry. Your friends and family will likely be frustrated when they think you’re deliberately missing what they say. But as it happens more and more often, aggravation might turn to worry.
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 annoyance.
Early hearing loss has a few other indicators
If your selective hearing is getting worse over time, it may be worth watching out for some of these other early signs of hearing loss. Some of those signs include:
- People sound distant or muffled when they speak
- Consonants are hard to distinguish
- Needing to ask others to speak up or slow down
- Cranking the volume up on your devices
- Hearing in crowds is challenging
You should contact us for a hearing exam if you have any of these symptoms.
Always safeguard your hearing
Safeguarding your hearing is so critical to preventing hearing loss. Limit your exposure to noisy environments (or at least wear earmuffs or earplugs when you must be around noise). Hearing aids can also help you communicate effectively, which can smooth over many rough patches 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 diminishing attention span. But when you (or somebody around you) notices your selective hearing becoming worse, you might want to take that as an indication that it’s time to have your hearing checked.