Thursday, March 24, 2011

Selective hearing: a fine art

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Sometimes there is a fine line between disability and ability. For instance, consider the following commonly agreed-upon definitions:
Hearing loss - a disability, a defect.
Selective hearing loss - a talent.
It is selective hearing loss, also knows as selective deafness, that I want to discuss today.
This trait is reportedly most apparent in teenagers and husbands.
What is interesting however is how this ability evolves post-adolescence.
Because as human teens mature into adults - where maturity is gauged by level of responsibilities, not necessarily age - the sexes develop markedly differently. At about the same time that the adult (heterosexual) human male is honing his ability to spot a female going bra-less at 100 paces, he is also sharpening his selective deafness. To the point where it enables him to hear every syllable of a football or cricket telecast but not repeated instructions from his wife to fetch his own fecking beer or a toddler screeching for an icy pole. Most impressively, the male can hear the former and not the latter EVEN WHEN THEY'RE BEING SPOKEN AT THE SAME TIME.
The truly talented are those who are also deaf to their own utterings. Announcements like "if I just buy this gadget/car/fishing rod/some other boy toy I will not need to spend a dime again for a long, long time". Or "yes I will get the washing in before it rains". Or "yes I'll skip golf this weekend and watch the kids so you can go to the movies with your girlfriends". Declarations that are later dismissed because he claims he didn't hear himself make them.
In the adult human female no such deafness development occurs. Indeed, the selective deafness female teenagers morphs into, or maybe is replaced by (the research remains unclear*) a trait called guilt. By the time the female is at a stage where she can spot a sale** at 100 paces, she will hear everything.
And if she doesn't respond immediately and appropriately, her sense of guilt kicks in. Ergo, screeching toddlers elicit not ignorance but guilt and subsequent attention. The sound of a husband asking if there's any milk left in the house prompts frustration certainly, but also guilt and, most likely, a subsequent trip to the shop (possibly by the husband, who realises there are times when it's wiserto give the selective deafness a rest).

Do you exhibit selective deafness? Or do you live with someone who does?

* where research means my opinion.
** I'm not being stereotypical and limiting women to fashion sales here. We can be equally excited about sales at Bunnings, Dick Smith and Beaurepaires. (At least I think some weird sensible people get excited about Beaurepaires).
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