The term “selective hearing” indicates that a person hears only what is important to them, but experts warn that this could be the “first sign” of permanent hearing loss.
Selective hearing is a term often used jokingly by friends and family when someone focuses their attention on some piece of information rather than another or on a particular sound source, ignoring ambient noise. But this case is actually real and is used to describe people’s inability to listen to one person in a noisy environment.
Selective hearing is known to be a potential symptom of ADHD and autism, but according to Bev Carter, senior audiologist at Hearing Direct, it can be a sign of normal age-related hearing loss.
“If you notice that a relative or friend doesn’t always hear everything or misses the details of conversations, this may be the first sign that they have age-related hearing loss,” Carter told the British newspaper Express.
This type of hearing loss occurs naturally when the tiny hair-like fibers in the ear become damaged through the inevitable wear and tear over the years.
Carter explained how damage to these hairs can cause people to lose parts of speech: “Deep in the auditory system, we have tiny hairs that interpret sound waves as they enter the ear and send messages to the brain. Frequencies are most susceptible to wear and tear because they are the first to pick up incoming sound waves. Damage to these hairs leads to slurred speech over time.”
“While there is no cure for age-related hearing loss, if you are diagnosed with the condition, your doctor will work with you to improve your hearing to ensure you have a good quality of life.”
Trying to follow conversations, which are especially difficult in noisy environments, and suffering when you’re in a group — situations commonly described as selective hearing — can be signs of hearing loss, Carter says.
“Many people also find that their relatives ask them to turn up the TV louder than they are used to, which may indicate a change in their hearing,” she added.
According to the Mayo Clinic, other symptoms of hearing loss include:
Hearing problems with consonants
The need to ask others to speak slower, clearer, and louder
– Avoid conversations
Avoidance of certain social situations due to hearing
There are several ways specialists can help a patient with hearing loss, depending on the type of hearing loss.
As the NHS explains, there are two main types of hearing loss: Sensorineural hearing loss, which results from damage to hair cells or the auditory nerve. This is a type of hearing loss associated with normal aging.
On the other hand, conductive hearing loss occurs when sounds cannot get from the outer ear to the inner ear due to an ear infection, ear wax, or a perforated eardrum.