Do You Have Selective Hearing?

Time To Read: 5 minutes

We all joke about selective hearing - but it actually exists and it's not necessarily a bad thing. We look at the issue here:

  • How Hearing Aids Help
  • Selective Hearing And The Myth of Multitasking
  • Positive Selective Hearing - Focus and Attention Techniques

Selective hearing is the subject of humour going way back.

But does it actually exist?

Doctors are convinced that it does.

In short, our brains can only concentrate on a few things at a time. The more we need to concentrate on something the narrower our focus becomes, which means we filter out the information we don’t need and retain only the information we can use in that moment.

In addition, our brains prioritise information that helps keep us alive. That’s why we can sometimes hear our name called amid a hubbub of other noise.

This is known as The Cocktail Party Effect.

If you’re struggling with your hearing, it means you’re using a lot more brain power and concentration than you have to. This means you’re going to find it difficult to shift from speaker to speaker as well as subject to subject.

It is time consuming, exhausting, and prone to misunderstandings but there are things you can do to help.

How Hearing Aids Help

When you’re having a comprehensive hearing assessment, you should be tested for how well you understand speech in noise.

It is a topic we have covered multiple times because it is such an essential part of making the most from your hearing aids.

  • Directional microphones: Most hearing aids have more than one microphones which help differentiate sound and prioritise the one you want to listen to.
  • Binaural synchronization: This simply means your hearing aids are ‘talking’ to each other and adjusting their settings dependent on the environment.
  • Accessory microphones (FM): Sometimes your hearing aids need a little assistance. These take the form of discreet little microphones that transmit sound directly into your hearing aids. These are perfect for places like restaurants or board meetings and it gives you a front row seat without the distractions. A good example of this is the Roger Pen by Phonak.

Selective Hearing and The Myth of Multitasking

Pomodoro - a tomato-shaped kitchen timer set at 25 minutes to fight procrastination in studying
and working.

So, who has the biggest propensity for ‘selective hearing’? Men or Women?

Well, the old saw is that men are more likely to ‘suffer’ from selective hearing  than women. Researchers suggest that back in the hunter-gather days that men who hunted needed to focus on stalking their quarry, where women had the important role of protecting children needed to have their hearing attuned to danger.

You’ve probably seen the headlines that women are better at multitasking than men. Except it’s not true.

In fact multitasking itself is a myth. 

What we call multitasking is, in fact, the ability to rapidly and successfully switch between tasks. That requires a degree of selective hearing - and a lot of brain processing.

To do an activity well, we need to concentrate on it which is where selective hearing comes in handy.

In fact, you can use it to your advantage (and no, that isn’t to pretend ‘not to hear’ when you you’re being asked something).

Positive Selective Hearing - Focus and Attention Techniques

An Italian management consultant Francesco Cirillo has come up with an effective technique to put that selective hearing to good use.

He calls is the Pomodoro - named for the tomato-shaped kitchen timer and it’s a clever way  of increasing focus and productivity.

The process is simple. Dedicate yourself to a single task, without interruption for 25 minutes. Take a 5 minute break and get back into the task again for another 25 minutes, etc.

After you’ve done the cycle four times (25 minutes work, 5 minutes break), take a 30 minute break and then continue until your task is done.