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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Starting Young in the Art of Selective Hearing

I can hear you just fine. But I'm busy.

Today I had a hearing test. So it was back to my favorite hospital, the one at which I was born, operated, convalesced and visited others. The hearing test is just one of many hooks that doctors like to offer to little babies to keep us coming back to visit them. Otherwise we would only see them for emergencies and then we would associate doctors with pain and chaos.  

We arrived early in the morning and met the doctor who would conduct my test. Immediately, she spelled out all the caveats. We babies may hear, but we don't always tell. We may not turn our heads toward the sounds or our focus is elsewhere and we ignored the sound. And so the professionals are left guessing. When adult humans take a hearing test, they are told to raise their hand when they hear a noise. Babies are not so reliable.

So, when it was my turn to perform, the doctor left the soundproof room and started speaking, yelling or whispering awkward noises over a microphone, but I didn't always look over at the speaker from which the sound came. Why not? Well, there are several possibilities and/or reasons:
  1. My feet, at which I was staring, were far more fascinating than her voice
  2. Her words and sounds were just not that interesting
  3. I already knew she wasn't in the room, and it wasn't a TV, so why look around?
  4. I felt embarrassed for her making all those funny sounds, so I pretended it wasn't happening. For her sake.
You see, selective hearing is a trait we begin working on already in our first year. Just as the speech therapists tell you that we begin processing words at this young age, we are also refining the art of selective listening. For example, if you call my name, but the TV is on, I won't look at you. I'm already happy with what I'm doing, so please do not interrupt. But if the apartment is completely silent, like when you are tiptoeing around in the morning trying not to awaken me, I've already heard you and am staring at the door of my room awaiting your entry.

I can hear the finer, softer sounds - when it behooves me. But if they knew this, the doctors wouldn't get to see me every couple of months and they would feel deprived. Accordingly, I will see them again in October and November, because I didn't conclusively pass their test. They just can't get enough of me!

Later, mommy did her own hearing test on me: Calling my name vs. the TV. She had Mimi call  my name over Skype as I sat directly next to the computer, volume on full. I did not look when called. But then, when mommy secretly clicked a button, I heard the dulcet tones of the TV (on very low volume) and I turned my entire body 180 degrees to get a good view.

Yes, I can hear. I merely choose to which sound to respond.

I even got mommy hooked now


  1. Daniel,
    Who can blame the doctor's for wanting to see you all the time. You are beautiful!

  2. I live in a house with all men (that I love). Selective listening is a perfected art that keeps them sane, especially when they live with a woman that talks often. :)