Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Selective Hearing

I’ll just give it to you straight: All men have selective hearing. They screen us out. Even the most deaf-as-a-doorpost guy will hear every nuance and aside on a broadcast sports event. They’re built that way; it’s hard-wired into them. We may fight it, but we can’t win this one.

The kids and I have been telling the Center of the Universe that his hearing is sub-par for years and years. About twelve years ago he actually went for a hearing test. They told him his hearing was fine. We told him he must have cheated on the test.

Since then, though, his hearing has declined substantially. Most of our conversations actually take place in triplicate, because he asks me to repeat myself so much.

Me: What would you like for dinner?

CoTU: Hm?

Me: I asked you what you would like for dinner.

CoTU: What did you say?

Me: For the love of God, man, I’m trying to find out what you’d like for dinner!

CoTU: Oh. Whatever.

I should be drinking more.

Now you may think that I just mumble, or should automatically talk louder to avoid this kind of exchange, but that’s already been considered, factored in, and tossed out like yesterday’s milk. If I develop the habit of talking uber-loud to coddle the guy, it may carry over into my everyday conversations with others. I’ll look like a nitwit. (Straight line: free. Inserting your own punchline: priceless.)

A couple of days ago, “Airing My Dirty Laundry” (http://whisperingwriter.blogspot.com/2009/08/right-ear.html) ran a great post about communicating with her husband. She cited research that showed that men are more likely to listen through their right ears. (Would that mean they're in their right minds?)

That totally redefines ‘selective hearing’, but hey, I’m open to suggestions. I took heed, and figured I’d try the right ear. Same results. Apparently he has both of them set on 'mute'. Sadly, mute in this case does not mean he can't talk, it means he has turned off the hearing gene (which is on a weak chromosome anyway.) Why do we bother?

There’s a spillover from this little difference of ours, too. It’s about the volume of the television. I like it in the normal range, and CoTU likes to broadcast into the adjacent zip codes. If it can’t be heard in at least three counties, it’s not loud enough for him. I’m starting to think that his strategy is to induce hearing loss in me, so that I will actually want the tv to be super-loud, too. Great—if that happens, our conversations will start to take forever.

Me: Did you call your parents back?

CoTU: What did you say?

Me: What?

CoTU: Did you ask me a question?

Me: Can you repeat that for me?

CoTU: I just asked what you said.

Me: I forgot. What did it sound like?

CoTU: blank stare, no words

Interestingly, when we’re at friends’ homes, if we’re all watching a movie, he functions with the television at normal volume. This is what makes me think this is a choice, not a disability. (Whoops, sounds like a bumper sticker.) Of course that detracts from my theory that he does have a significant hearing loss, but since he isn’t dealing with that on a medical level anyway, it hardly matters.

I came up with an idea for the acid test, however. Yesterday I made an illicit suggestion, in a whisper, in the garage with the door closed, and he heard it from upstairs with the water running. “Aha! I crowed. “You CAN hear—when you want to!”

He was somewhat abashed by the revelation. “No fair,” he complained. “You can’t use an offer to make brownies as a hearing test! Hey—does that mean you’re not really going to make them?”

“Maybe,” I said. “But only after you turn down the tv.”

And if you were thinking other things, you have a dirty mind. This blog is rated PG-50something.


  1. Sorry - I must have phased out again. What was your point? :)

  2. Yep. I saw a stand-up routine on this that I think summed it up. If women want to be heard, we have to speak to them as a man would. Just give him the pertinent information. If we come in and the dishes haven't been done, don't launch into a long speech about how you know his mom spoiled him but you aren't his mom and blah blah blah. Just say, "Do the dishes, dick" and walk away. That's it. The comedian said he'll get up and shout, "Who are you calling a dick?" but he'll say it on his way into the kitchen to do the dishes!

  3. First of all, thank you so much for mentioning me in your blog.

    Second of all, yes, men do have selective hearing. My husband has the problem. And my son has the problem. Even my cat (who is male) has that problem. It can get quite frustrating..

  4. My kids have selective hearing and I hate to repeat myself. I figured out they were mostly doing it as a stall / refocusing their attention technique. Now, I don't repeat myself I just ask them "what do you think I said" If they have no response I say "guess" Most of the time they are right. They heard but they didn't hear.

  5. Hello!!!
    I would LOVE to have you join us bloggers over 50. And I will be very pleased to add you to our growing list of 'members' our age group.

    Thing is, I can't add your blog link until you've added either a text link of the home site -Bloggers Over 50- or a linked graphic from the site that will take other visitors from the list back to the home. So they can continue to peruse others without delay. [I've had many leave a comment, complaining on that aspect...so, before I add you, I need to appease others first.]

    When you have the link on your sidebar, let me know, and I'll add your blog too!!

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  7. Opps.... I will repost

    I don't mean to be crass, but men some how regain their hearing when sex is mentioned.... Crazy how that happens.

  8. I'm printing this out and putting it on the fridge.

    Scratch that.

    I'm printing this out and putting it on the floor by the toilet. That way he is sure to see it.