To many people, the term ‘selective hearing’ is nothing more than a throwaway phrase used in jest to tease friends or family members who choose to listen to only the information they want to take in.
However, certain indicators could link the typical behaviour of someone with selective hearing with more serious underlying health issues.
Below, Katie Ogden, audiologist and training manager at hearing aid provider ReSound North West Europe, explains why those who are either experiencing selective hearing or are concerned about a loved one who is, maybe a warning sign for genuine hearing loss.
‘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, and the ability to effectively tune out distracting noises and sounds is a skill that many can master to focus on an important task.’
‘That being said, while the occasional joke regarding an individual’s perceived ‘selective hearing’ is 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. ‘
‘Often, those communicating with someone suffering from hearing loss notice a potential issue first, and while it by no means determines a diagnosis, there are some symptoms to be on the lookout for if you believe the issue may run deeper than just selective hearing’
Asking you to repeat yourself
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 you’re lacking the sounds and signals needed to process speech properly.
Complaining about mumbling
Those struggling with hearing loss often complain that people aren’t speaking clearly or are mumbling. This can be due to people with hearing loss not being able to hear high-pitched speech frequencies, hearing the vowels, which is the sound of the word, but not the consonants, which is the clarity and meaning of the word, making them feel like they can hear the sound but not fully understand it.
Difficulty with phone conversations
If your loved one has their mobile phone volume set to the max volume possible or has 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.
Listening to the TV at a loud volume
Television shows with fast-paced dialogue or a substantial amount of background noise can be hard for those with hearing loss to follow. In addition, 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 watching in the room, this could be an indication they could benefit from a hearing assessment.
There are also online hearing tests for those not comfortable going straight to a hearing care professional, who can offer some further indication on clarity and next steps.
Appearing withdrawn or becoming quiet
Individuals with hearing loss often become quieter or can appear to become withdrawn in social situations or noisy environments. This can be due to that person being frustrated they may not be able to hear properly or feeling self-conscious or embarrassed that they will have to ask others to repeat themselves.
Suppose you notice this behaviour pattern starting to emerge in your loved one’s personality during these situations. In that case, you should encourage them to see an audiologist to see if they could benefit from hearing aids to regain their confidence.
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 drained and exhausted after conversing with others, there could be more to it than simply needing a good night’s sleep.
When a person doesn’t hear all speech sounds, the brain 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 happening in a busy situation, leading to extreme tiredness afterwards.
If one or more of the above symptoms resonate with you or a loved one, it might be time to seek out the help of a professional hearing care professional. As well as improving the health of the person suffering and those around them, treating hearing loss can also dramatically positively affect social relationships.
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