The 6 times your partner’s selective hearing is something more sinister | The Sun

SELECTIVE hearing is often seen as a nuisance and a sure-fire way to irritate your partner.

But an expert has warned that actually, it could be a sign of a hearing problem, which could lead to more health issues.

Selective hearing is when a person only appears to perk up and listen when it involves or interests them.

For example, they may zone out a conversation in a group of friends but suddenly be listening when food is mentioned.

Or, you may bring up a conversation you had a few days ago, but that person can only remember small details from it that they chose to listen to. 

It may be useful to pay close attention to your partner’s conversation patterns to make sure they aren’t spiralling into a serious hearing problem, however. 

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Katie Ogden, audiologist and training manager at hearing aid provider ReSound North West Europe, said: “Anyone who has ever tried to have a conversation with a toddler or a teenager will know that there is a vast difference between listening and hearing.

“That being said, while the occasional joke regarding an individual's perceived ‘selective hearing’ is most often nothing more than a passing comment to air a grievance at being ignored, it’s certainly no laughing matter when it could be indicative of a hearing loss problem. 

“Left ignored, hearing loss can lead to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and in some cases symptoms of depression.

“So if you or someone you love is regularly being taunted for having ‘selective hearing’ then it’s important to be aware of the early warning signs of hearing loss, and act on them sooner rather than later. 

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“Often those communicating with someone suffering with hearing loss notice a potential issue first."

Hearing aid users wait, on average, 10 years before getting help for hearing loss, according to John Hopkins Medicine.

But during that time, communication with loved ones becomes more difficult.

Kate said: "While it by no means determines a diagnosis, there are some symptoms to be on the look out for if you believe the issue may run deeper than just selective hearing.”

Kate shared the following signs a person has hearing issues – and aren’t just “not listening”.

1. Asking you to repeat yourself 

When someone is repeatedly mishearing you, you eventually notice. 

Kate said: “Everyone can mishear things from time to time and need them repeated.

"But if you or your loved one are constantly asking for things to be repeated or muttering the phrase ‘what did you say?’, this could be a sign they’re lacking the sounds and signals needed to process speech properly.”

2. Complaining about mumbling 

When someone tells you to “stop mumbling”, you tend to blame yourself.

But it’s often those that are complaining that have the issue, because they cannot hear someone with clarity like everyone else can. 

Kate said people with hearing loss may not be able to hear high-pitched speech frequencies, leaving gaps in the sound of talking.

They may only hear vowels, and not consonants – "which is the clarity and meaning of the word, making them feel like they can hear the sound but not fully understand it", Kate said.

3. Difficulty with phone conversations 

It’s not something you’d normally pick up on – that your loved one always takes their calls on speakerphone.

But this is subtle evidence that a person struggles to hear, because having the phone to their ear is quieter.

Kate said: “If your loved one has their mobile phone volume set to the max volume possible or is having to use the speakerphone to hear what someone on the other end is saying, this could be a sign that they could benefit from hearing aids.”

4. Listening to the TV at a loud volume

There’s always someone in the room requesting to turn the TV up just a little bit more – until it’s deafening everyone else. 

Kate said television shows with fast paced dialogue or a substantial amount of background noise can be hard for those with hearing loss to follow.

The crucial dialogue can often be drowned out, leading to people listening to the TV at a much higher volume. 

“So, if a friend or family member needs to have the TV volume turned up to a level of sound that is uncomfortable for others, this could be an indication they could benefit from a hearing assessment,” Kate said.  

“There are also online hearing tests for those not comfortable going straight to an hearing care professional, who can offer some further indication on clarity and next steps.”

5. Appearing withdrawn, or becoming quiet

When someone is hard of hearing – even if they are unaware of it – they often become quieter or can appear to become withdrawn in social situations or in noisy environments. 

“This can be due to that person being frustrated they may not be able to hear properly, or from feeling self-conscious or embarrassed that they will have to ask others to repeat themselves,” Kate said. 

“If you notice this behaviour pattern starting to emerge in your loved one, you should encourage them to see an audiologist to see if they could benefit from hearing aids to regain their confidence.”

6. Exhaustion after socialising

Asking people to repeat themselves, withdrawing from conversation – all these behaviours can make someone resent socialising.

“While it’s normal to feel a bit tired after a long day of catching up with family or friends, if you or a loved one is feeling totally drained and exhausted after conversing with others, there could be more to it than simply needing a good nights sleep,” Kate said.

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“When a person isn’t hearing all of the sounds of speech, the brain then has to fill in any gaps to help make sense of what people are saying.

“This requires a lot of extra focus and makes the brain work even harder to process what is going on in a busy situation, leading to extreme tiredness afterwards.”

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