Selective Hearing Versus Hearing Loss

90Have you ever accused someone with hearing loss of having selective hearing? I’ve heard this accusation at times from significant others. 

I think it is an unfair accusation when applied to someone with hearing loss.

By its very nature, hearing loss results in selective hearing.

First of all, most people with hearing loss have to pay attention when listening. Unlike for people with normal hearing, listening is not passive.  Listening requires effort.  And nobody can pay attention 100% of the time.  So the person with hearing loss has to “select” when to hear. 

Hearing loss is also selective in that we hear better in some situations than others. We hear better when:  we are alert and interested and focused; we are sitting close to the person we are speaking with; when we can see the person we are talking to; and a myriad of other variables such as where we are sitting in the room (if we have directional microphones).

Here are examples of times when I might not “choose” to pay attention:  when I am tired; when the listening environment is challenging, such as at a noisy family gathering; when the person speaking is difficult to understand; when the conversation does not interest me (and therefore the ‘cost’ in terms of effort is higher than the perceived benefit).

If you want my attention, even under the above conditions, call my name, and then wait for me to respond. This gives me a minute to get into my listening mode. 

(If you start talking without alerting me to the fact that I have to stop what I am doing and pay attention, you might not get the results that you want.)

If you know for a fact that I am tired, or that I am having difficulty hearing in this particular situation, I’d appreciate any efforts to make yourself easy to understand.  Talk more slowly.  Tell me what the topic is, and its importance to you. Break down the information into smaller chunks.  Check in with me to verify that I have understood.

In return, I promise not to pretend to understand.

And I promise not to pretend I am listening when I am not.

And, most importantly, I promise to give you the same consideration—I will work on being a better communicator too. I will answer immediately when you call my name. I will give you my full attention. I will acknowledge what you have said.

Any thoughts?

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Photo credit:  ©lqoncept




Hearing Or No Hearing

"most people with hearing loss have to pay attention when listening."

I might be inclined to say 'people have to pay attention when listening'.

All great suggestions. Even with good hearing (knock on wood) I've learned a lot from you on how to have better communication skills. I think of you every time I walk out of the room and start a conversation ... and then stop until I return.