You’ve said it before (and you may have to say it again!) – “My husband never hears what I’m saying to him!” Does he have selective hearing? Why does it seem like men have a harder time hearing than women? Are they more prone to hearing loss, or is it just selective hearing? We may make the tongue in cheek “selective hearing” jokes often, but there may be a real underlying issue with his hearing that should be addressed.
More Common Than You Think
Nearly 50 million people in the United States experience some degree of hearing loss, but did you know that men are twice as likely to develop hearing loss compared to women? Why? It all boils down to one thing – lifestyle. On average, individuals who are exposed to loud noises on a regular basis will experience more hearing loss than those who live quieter lifestyles. Loud noise stimulates the tiny cells in our inner ear called hair cells. Hair cells are responsible for our ability to hear. Over time, the hair cells slowly die off, but hair cells that have been overstimulated by loud noise will die off at a faster rate, leading to significant hearing loss.
While men and women alike find themselves in noisy environments from time to time, men are more likely to pursue careers in noisy environments (i.e. military, manufacturing, construction) and have hobbies that expose them to loud sounds (i.e. hunting, motorcycles, power tools) on a regular basis. Excessive noise exposure over time can lead to a high frequency hearing loss. Individuals who experience high frequency hearing loss often report that they can hear when someone is talking to them, it is just unclear to them what the other person is saying. These individuals may also struggle to follow conversation when there is a lot of background noise present. It is easy to think that someone with this type of loss has selective hearing.
Can It Be Improved?
Not only are men more likely to develop hearing loss, they are less likely to seek help for their hearing difficulties than their female counterparts. Choosing to seek intervention for hearing loss is a big decision, but it’s also an important one. Ignoring hearing loss can lead to a number of consequences such as social isolation and strain on relationships, but it can also affect cognition and our brains’ ability to process speech later on. Treating hearing loss with appropriate amplification early on is a major factor in how successful a person will be with hearing aids.
The Power of Eye Contact
If hearing loss is not the issue, and you truly feel like you are not being heard, let me gently suggest that you also evaluate your own communication method. Are you yelling from the around the corner or the other room? Do you start a conversation, without first using his name and getting his attention? Men tend to do a good job at focusing on one thing at a time while women are superb multitaskers.
If your dad, husband or father is watching TV or lost in thought, you may need to break that focus for him to be able to comprehend the words you are saying. Everyone hears better when they also have the benefit of eye contact so try to only start conversation where you are in direct line of sight. While selective hearing implies that the listener is purposefully ignoring what you are saying, hopefully you now see that it may not be on purpose.
To all the dads out there, we love you, and we’d hate it if you stopped telling us your dad jokes because you’re struggling to be part of the conversations. So come see us at Levine Hearing to get your hearing tested and see what solutions we have to get you hearing the way you should! Happy Father’s Day!
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