Q: All of my life, I have thought that I had hearing problems. But a recent hearing test showed that my hearing is perfect. I swear that I have to ask people to repeat themselves all of the time. When the situations are crazy-busy, I just can’t hear. What is up?
A: It’s attentiveness, not hearing. Have you ever wondered why, when your significant other hops in the car, they crank up the engine, turn on the radio, and roll down the windows before they start talking to you? (And you turn off the radio, roll up the windows, and tell them that you can’t hear?) It’s because their focus is better when the environment is nuts. They demonstrate the “Cocktail Party effect”.
You focus better in peace and quiet. (You always seem to marry your complete opposite.) It turns out that you hear just fine. You just have issues with focusing your attention. (Your partner can’t focus when there are no distractions.)
Q: Does this mean that my brain is defective? And does that mean I need medication or therapy so that I can be normal?
A: The coping mechanism that I recommend is to inform the people around you that you have trouble understanding them when there are lots of distractions. (Believe me, they probably already know.) Make sure that they talk to you in the same room, looking at you when they speak, if possible. Ask them to turn off the TV, radio, or look up from their computer when speaking. It is possible that medicines for ADD could be helpful. But you need to balance risk and reward when taking any pharmaceuticals.
There is a balance within everyone between “automatic” influences on attention and “conscious” decisions to be attentive. You want to participate in conversation, but you have trouble filtering out your automatic attention to everything going on in the background. Your “attentiveness opposite” partner has trouble with being focused in quiet. Just be happy that you now know what’s going on.