I just love when my patients tell me they have “selective hearing” as if it is a real medical condition. Although the medical literature doesn’t recognize selective hearing as a condition, the Urban Dictionary defines it as the ability that humans have (mostly males) to selectively hear what serves their interests.
Patients will state that they “don’t have hearing loss” and that they can “hear what they want to hear”. Apparently, being deaf is a choice. They can turn it on and off like a light switch. People with “selective hearing” are in denial about the real problem – hearing loss.
Twenty percent of adults (48 million) in the United States report some degree of hearing loss. At age 65, one in three adults with hearing loss are in the work force or in an educational setting. They have many excuses about why they can’t hear:
- Women speak too softly
- Their grand kids mumble
- They can hear if you talk loud enough (you need to scream)
- The TV is on too loud because no one speaks clearly anymore
Studies show that seniors are three times more likely to have a cosmetic procedure performed than seek treatment for hearing loss. A hearing test is as popular as a colonoscopy when it comes to routine health checks.
Why are seniors in denial about their hearing loss?
- They don’t think their hearing is bad enough to warrant hearing aids
- It’s part of aging and not life threatening, so it’s no big deal
- They don’t want to look old
- They lack trust in hearing aids because they know people who have had poor experiences.
Seniors don’t realize how much hearing loss adversely affects their quality of life. It results in depression, isolation, anger, and cognitive decline. They avoid people they can’t hear and situations in which they can’t hear.
As an Otolaryngologist, wife, and mother, I find this denial concerning. Hearing loss needs to be identified and treated. The stigma of hearing aids needs to be removed because they are helpful when fitted and adjusted properly. Modern hearing aids are small and discreet. They are actually less noticeable than glasses!
If you know someone that who has “selective hearing”, urge them to see an Otolaryngologist and obtain a hearing test. The proper diagnosis and treatment plan, in addition to the right physician, can significantly improve their quality of life and yours.