The Dynamics of Selective Hearing

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

The only one thing that you requested was for the trash to be taken out. A little while later you realize your partner failed to do it. When you ask why it didn’t get done, your partner responds “I never heard you ask me”. Funny how that works, how your partner failed to hear the one thing you asked them to do. This “selective hearing” is a common sign that communication is failing.

We tend to view selective hearing as a negative, almost like it’s a character defect. It’s as if you’re accusing someone of intentionally not listening. But it’s possible that the actual culprit behind your selective hearing may not be a short attention span, it might be the early stages of hearing loss.

What is selective hearing?

You’ve probably been accused of selective hearing at some point in your life, even if no one used that particular name. 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 miss the part about the calories. Things like that.

As a behavior, selective hearing is extremely common. However, most research points to men failing to hear their partners more often than women.

How individuals are socialized does provide some context and it might be tempting to make some assumptions from this. 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 prevalent or more common. That could actually be an early indication of hearing loss.

Hearing loss can create gaps in communication

Undiagnosed hearing loss can certainly make communication a lot more difficult. That’s likely not that surprising.

But here’s the thing: in many cases, communication problems are an indication of hearing loss.

When hearing loss is in those very early stages, there aren’t going to be a lot of apparent symptoms. Perhaps you begin cranking the volume up on your tv. When go out to your local haunt, you have a hard time hearing conversations. It’s probably because the music is so loud, right? But besides situations like that, you might never even observe how loud daily sounds can be. This allows your hearing to slowly (but surely) diminish. You barely notice the issue until you’re at the point where you regularly have difficulty hearing conversations.

Your hearing health is worrying your partner

You will notice some of the people close to you are beginning to worry. Yes, selective hearing is a relatively common aggravation (even more frustrating when you already feel as if nobody is listening to you). But as it turns out more and more often, irritation may turn to worry.

And your partner may want you to find out what’s going on by having you schedule a hearing test.

It’s significant to pay attention to your partner’s concerns. Have an open discussion with them and accept their help because they care about your well-being and aren’t just irritated with you.

Early hearing loss has a few other signs

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

  • Cranking up the volume on your devices
  • Speech sounds distant or muffled
  • Trouble hearing in crowds
  • Having a tough time making out consonants
  • Needing to ask others to talk louder or slow down

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should call us for a hearing test.

Always safeguard your hearing

Protecting your hearing is so essential to preventing hearing loss. Minimize your exposure to loud environments (or at least use earmuffs or earplugs when you have to be around noise). Hearing aids can also help you have more effective communication, which can smooth over many rough patches that your hearing loss may have caused in the first place.

A diminishing attention span will be responsible for most selective hearing situations in your life. But you may want to take it as a signal that it’s time for a hearing test when people around you start to notice your selective hearing getting worse.

The content of this blog is the intellectual property of and is reprinted here with permission. The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive a hearing aid consultation, call today to schedule an appointment.