What Is Selective Hearing And How Does It Work?

What Is Selective Hearing And How Does It Work?
June 13, 2022 Amazing Hearing Group
What Is Selective Hearing And How Does It Work?

Do you know of someone who you feel doesn’t hear you whenever you are talking, or they seem to be preoccupied when you are trying to get their attention?

Have you ever heard of the saying “I’m sorry, I wasn’t listening”? Well, that’s probably because the person wasn’t really listening in the first place. Or, maybe they were only selectively listening to what was being said.

As frustrating as it seems, selective hearing is quite common, especially among couples and families. It can be detrimental to communication and cause a lot of conflict.


The Definition of Selective Hearing

Selective hearing (also known as selective auditory attention) is the ability to focus on a single speaker while in a crowded or noisy setting.

Selective hearing is the act of only paying attention to certain sounds or voices while filtering out others. This usually occurs when someone is not interested in what is being said or when they only want to hear certain things.


How Does It Work?


Your brain determines what you listen to based on what you’re attempting to accomplish.

2008 research showed that though the test played different pitches in each ear of the participants and were asked to note any changes in pitch in the focused ear, the participants ignored the sound in the other ear despite MRI scans showing that the participants’ brains did hear the sounds.

Your brain processes only a portion of the auditory data, even as your auditory system “listens” to the noise in your surroundings.

Selective hearing, in a way, is a gift and a defensive mechanism that protects our brains from excessive sound input.


Brain activity:

According to another research, the presentation of noises inside your head does not represent all of the sounds in your environment, but rather what you want or need to hear.

The researchers found that the speakers only received attention from those participants who were told to pay attention to them, based on their brain activity patterns.



Visual cues are another important part of selective hearing.

According to another study, they discovered that being able to observe someone while they were talking might assist you in better listening.


How To Manage Selective Hearing

Selective hearing might be treated. However, it affects nearly everyone. There are a few things you can do to enhance your listening abilities, including:

  • Focusing, and paying better attention
  • Don’t assume, and be aware of your biases
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions and summarise

If you experience great difficulty in understanding and listening in general, it would be helpful to get a hearing test done or consult a hearing aids Specialist.


What Selective Hearing Is Not

In conclusion, selective listening is not a negative trait, but rather your capacity to concentrate on and single out a specific sound or conversation.

Selective hearing is a human capacity to tune out sounds, noise, or speech that we consider less important at any particular time. It isn’t a physiological problem; it is just a function of people’s ability to block unwelcome information from their consciousness.

The negative experiences are largely caused by hearing loss that affects the ability to hear in general.

Therefore, if you are frustrated that your friend or partner do not hear you, if could be a sign of hearing loss for them.



Despite the fact that recent research has shed new light on how selective hearing works, further investigation is needed to fully comprehend why it happens and what it might imply for health issues that impact hearing.

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