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. But, regrettably, it never was accomplished. When you ask why it didn’t get done, your partner replies “I never heard you ask me”. Curious 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 poor communication.

We often think of selective hearing as a negative, sort of like it’s a character defect. It’s like you’re accusing somebody of intentionally not listening. But it’s possible that the actual culprit behind your selective hearing may not be a short attention span, it may be the early stages of hearing loss.

Selective hearing – what is it?

You’ve likely been accused of selective hearing at some point in your life, even if nobody 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 bit about the chocolate ice cream, but you miss the part about the calories. That kind of thing.

As a behavior, selective hearing is extremely common. However, most studies point to males failing to hear their partners more frequently than women.

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 the other part of the situation 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

Communication will undoubtedly be harder with undiagnosed hearing loss. That’s probably not that surprising.

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

When hearing loss is in those very early phases, there aren’t going to be very many obvious symptoms. Perhaps you begin cranking the volume up on your tv. You can’t quite hear what your friend is saying when you stop for a beverage at your local pub. It’s most likely because the music is so loud, right? And so, besides that, you could go through most of your day-to-day life without giving much notice to the volume of the world around you. Your hearing can slowly deteriorate because of this. You hardly notice the issue until you’re at the point where you frequently have trouble hearing conversations.

Your hearing health is concerning your partner

You will notice some of the people close to you are starting to be concerned. Yes, selective hearing is a fairly common irritation (even more annoying when you already feel as if no one is listening to you). But that frustration often becomes worry when they realize that hearing loss could be the actual culprit.

So, your partner may recommend you schedule a hearing test to determine if something is wrong.

Your partner’s worry is relevant and it’s important for you to acknowledge that. Have an open conversation and consider that they have a caring attitude and not just aggravation.

Other early indications of hearing loss

If your selective hearing is getting worse over time, it might be worth keeping an eye out for some of these other early indications of hearing loss. Here are a few of those signs:

  • Requesting that people speak slower and speak up
  • Having a tough time making out consonants
  • Cranking up the volume on your devices
  • Hearing in crowds is challenging
  • People sound far-away or muted when they talk

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

Always protect your hearing

Safeguarding your hearing is so critical to preventing hearing loss. Minimize your exposure to noisy environments (or at least use earmuffs or earplugs when you have to be around noise). Any feathers that you might have ruffled with your selective hearing can be smoothed over by using 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 somebody around you) observes your selective hearing getting worse, you may want to take that as a sign that it’s time to get your hearing tested.

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