Do You Have Hearing Loss…or Selective Hearing?

The sign hanging in my laundry room reveals my little secret. Shhh! Don't tell anyone.

The sign hanging in my laundry room reveals my little secret. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone.

I’ve loved stories ever since I was a little girl. Long before I became Lipreading Mom and years before my hearing loss diagnosis, I sat in a crowded elementary school classroom and waited for a story to begin. I placed a set of headphones over my ears. When the recorded storyteller asked a question, I was to write down my answer. I sat there motionless. The background noise in the classroom competed with the storyteller’s voice. What was this garbly-goop story about anyway?

My first hearing test came shortly after that, and at age 6, the doctor told my parents I had perfect hearing. That’s when I received the unofficial diagnosis of Selective Hearing.

“Shanna can hear,” the audiologist declared. “She just has trouble paying attention.”

For the next 20 years, I was convinced I had attention problems and needed to try extra hard in school. Even when it was uncool to do so, I forced myself to sit in the front row of class so I wouldn’t miss a thing. When the next recorded storytelling time began, I closed my eyes and concentrated with all my might. I wasn’t going to let this attention problem get the best of me.

Was my situation really selective hearing—or had the audiologist been wrong way back in 1979? Did I really have a mild hearing loss that went undetected?

It’s funny to tell someone he or she has selective hearing, particularly when it’s a family member who likes to tune others out. That was me. I was so stubborn in my selective hearing ways that I acquired some interesting nicknames along the way: Stubborn Shanna, Mule-Headed.

Okay, so the nicknames kind of hurt.

Then at the age of 27, I received the diagnosis I had suspected for some time. I had a progressive hearing loss.

If you suspect someone you love has selective hearing, do me a favor. Get a second opinion. Visit more than one audiologist until you get some consistent answers. Because if that loved one really is hard of hearing and needs hearing aids, you’d be doing that person a huge favor.

Have you ever been ‘diagnosed’ with selective hearing?
Share your story below. That way, Stubborn, Mule-Headed Shanna (a.k.a. Lipreading Mom) knows she is not alone. 🙂

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22 thoughts on “Do You Have Hearing Loss…or Selective Hearing?

  1. Yes, I’ve been diagnosed with selective hearing, but not by any audiologist or doctor. It was my peers, or certain teachers who judged me. This really hurt and compounded the problem. But I must say, most people understood. The people who didn’t were the minority. I did go to the emergency room one time with a painful ear infection, and the doctor on duty told my sister I had a perforated ear drum. The next day I went to a ENT specialist who verified that wasn’t the case. It pays to get a second opinion.

  2. All through elementary school and most the way through high school everyone just assumed I had selective hearing…turns out I had a mild/moderate hearing loss (50 dB range) and central auditory processing disorder. It took a clever physics teacher and a number of audiologists to finally reach that conclusion, but we eventually got there.

  3. By the time I was 5 years old I had 50% loss in each ear & began kindergarten with clunky & heavy bilateral BTE hearing aids. Through my elementary years in hopes of being treated the same as others, I told other kids they were radios. I was fortunate to have teachers and family that accepted me as is which means I was never told I had selective hearing. Instead it was “selective seeing” as if I was uninterested in what was being said I would look away meaning I wouldn’t be lip reading the speaker & therefore missing out on pretty much the whole conversation. In my older years when I would tell people about my hearing loss they would be confused by my very strong ability to read lips in conversations. These are the people who would accuse me of having selective hearing as they were ignorant to the broad spectrum of hearing loss. It was misconceived that because I could speak and be involved in a conversation that I could hear which especially today is not the case as I continue to function in hearing society with 100% loss in my rt ear and 85% loss in my left ear.

  4. Hm….sometimes I wish I had selective hearing, like my kids have! 🙂 I am hard of hearing and for hearing people it’s difficult to understand how this is so for me sometimes because I hear things that they think I shouldn’t. That little ding my blackberry makes to announce the arrival of an email? A frequency I can hear very well for some reason. A child speaking directly to my face while another child is making noise close by (some child is always making noise in this house) and I can’t decipher the words she’s saying….weird.

    Having said that, I have to admit that choosing to turn selective hearing on or off is sometimes a default for me. Having to pay attention to understand all the time is exhausting….so turning out the endless chatter from the small kids sometimes is a welcoming option.

  5. Never been diagnosed with selective hearing, but hearing people ask me all the time if I have hearing loss or just selective hearing. It can get very annoying and even hurtful at times. It’s sad that doctors misdiagnose their patients so often. When I was 12 with a cough and a rasp in my chest, the doctors said it was just a virus until I got so bad that my mom to me to the emergency room, where I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia.

    We can only hope that as time passes doctors get better.

  6. I never thought of selective hearing as a diagnosis (unless you count my mom’s claims during my childhood!). I’m pretty sure I have some minor hearing loss, though – a year of car audio will do that to you.

  7. This has a lot of parallels to mental illness too, and even endo. I was diagnosed as “becoming a woman” and believed for years that all women lived a life of agonizing pain and I was just a baby. A friend of mine was constantly told that she seemed like she didn’t care about school, which was a mystery to me since I saw how hard she worked. A later diagnosis of ADHD solved that mystery. I think your advice goes for everyone – if you suspect something’s wrong, always get a second opinion. 🙂

  8. Not being able to hear is a living hell for me. I’m not completely deaf but that might would have been better. I have had two sets of hearing aids but I still have a hard time. Some rare days I seem to hear better than others . The audiologist said sometimes we get tired of trying so hard to hear we don’t hear also another audiologist said I may have selective hearing. I must admit I wanted to knock her out of her chair! I can tell when family and friends get tired of repeating themselves so I just back off of the conversation. I don’t read lips well at all. When I think I do I always miss understand then I look like a fool and they laugh. So that’s the way it is for me. I’m 67 years old and healthy but not hearing will always be a hell in my life. God has seen me through this for a lot of years and He will continue too,

    • I was born Hard of Hearing but as soon as I got older. My hearing have gotten worst become severely hearing lost. It takes time for me to adjust certain loss of sound. I am not totally deaf but no better than HH. I am getting a lot of people whose willing to take some time to repeat words or have others just don’t have any understanding what is like to loose hearing. Many of those ignorance misinformed have lost hearing later in life as they get older. It kills them with kindness when they look at you in the smiling face.

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