The Impact of “Selective Hearing” & Listening in Relationships

Senior couple sitting on a sofa experiencing conflict in their relationship

In relationships, communication is crucial. But what happens when you and your significant other have different hearing needs? “Selective hearing,” a term often used to describe situations when someone appears to only hear what they want, can often be a result of undiagnosed hearing challenges. In this article, we’ll discuss how hearing differences can impact relationships and explore Assistive Listening Devices that can help bridge the gap. If you suspect your loved one has a hearing challenge, encourage them to take our online hearing test or schedule an appointment with one of our audiologists.

Senior couple sitting on a sofa experiencing conflict in their relationship

The Impact of Hearing Differences on Relationships

One of the most common signs that your partner, family member or close friend may have a hearing challenge is a consistent disagreement over TV volume. They may also struggle to hear conversations, especially when not in the same room. These challenges can lead to frustration, misunderstandings and even strain relationships.

A hearing challenge can make communication more difficult, as people may not realize they’re missing out on vital information during conversations. This can create the impression of “selective hearing,” even if the issue is not intentional. To maintain a healthy relationship, it’s essential to recognize and address these hearing differences.

Emotions Related to Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can create a multitude of challenges for couples, and you are not alone if you and your partner are struggling to maintain the same level of communication and connection as before. After a hearing loss diagnosis, many couples experience a shift in their interactions and emotions.

These are some common emotions that may arise in your relationship due to hearing loss:

  1. Frustration – Both partners may experience frustration; the individual with hearing loss may feel misunderstood and struggle to adapt to their new reality, while the other partner may be irritated by having to repeat themselves frequently.
  2. Anger – As frustration accumulates, it can eventually manifest as anger, leading to arguments over matters such as social outings, using closed captions on the TV and deteriorating communication in the relationship.
  3. Stress – The partner with normal hearing may feel burdened by the responsibility of assisting their spouse, filling in conversational gaps, handling tasks involving social interactions and advocating for proper medical care. The partner with hearing loss, on the other hand, may worry about becoming overly reliant on their spouse and may be uneasy with their growing medical needs.
  4. Sadness – Those with hearing loss may feel a sense of loss for the conversations, music and experiences they once enjoyed, while their partners may grieve the changes in their loved one and feel helpless to improve the situation.
  5. Loneliness – Depending on the severity of the hearing loss, casual conversation and social interaction may become difficult. Misconceptions about hearing loss may lead to unsympathetic or pitying treatment from others, making it challenging to form genuine connections and socialize comfortably.
  6. Detachment – Couples may begin to feel distant from each other, as spontaneous moments of communication become less frequent or impossible due to hearing loss. This emotional toll can be particularly difficult for couples who previously had a strong foundation of open and honest communication.
  7. Isolation – Certain environments, such as crowded restaurants, noisy sports events, loud concerts or parties with blaring music may become overwhelming and off-limits for those with hearing loss. Feelings of embarrassment and exhaustion may also contribute to a preference for staying home rather than facing perceived judgement from others.

Thankfully, there are products and solutions that can help mitigate these hearing struggles.

 Assistive Listening Devices: A Solution for Differing Hearing Needs

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are designed to help people with hearing challenges in various situations, including watching TV, attending social events or having one-on-one conversations. These devices can significantly improve communication and reduce misunderstandings.

Some popular ALDs include:

  1. Personal Amplifiers: These devices can be worn or carried by the person with hearing loss to amplify specific sounds, such as a conversation partner’s voice.
  2. TV Listening Systems: Wireless devices that allow the user to listen to the TV at their preferred volume without affecting others in the room.
  3. FM Systems: These systems use radio frequency signals to transmit sound from the source (e.g., a speaker) directly to the listener’s hearing aids or cochlear implants, reducing background noise and improving sound quality.
  4. Infrared Systems: Similar to FM systems, infrared systems use light waves to transmit sound, but they require a direct line of sight between the transmitter and receiver.

These are just a few examples of the ALDs available on the market. To explore more options and find the best solution for your loved one, visit our ALDs page.

Taking the Next Step

If you suspect your significant other, family member or friend may have a hearing challenge, it’s important to address the issue and seek help from a professional audiologist. Assistive Listening Devices can improve communication and help maintain strong, healthy relationships despite differing hearing needs.

Take the first step towards better communication with your loved one by encouraging them to take our online hearing test. If necessary, schedule an appointment with a Manhattan audiologist to discuss their hearing needs and explore the most suitable ALDs. Together, you can overcome hearing challenges and strengthen your bond.


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