Mishearing confirmed as the number one thing Kiwi couples fought about in the last year

There are many things our significant others do that can irritate us, but mishearing (or not listening in general, *cough*) has got to be up there. If your S/O is anything like mine, they are what you might call a selective listener - they filter out the important bits while everything else goes in one ear and out the other.

And we're not alone - mishearing has been confirmed as the number one thing New Zealand couples have fought about in the last year, according to new research.

The study, undertaken by Specsavers Audiology, has revealed just how much of an impact not listening to each other can have, with more than half (54 percent) of over-40s listing a lack of listening as a cause of disagreements in their relationship. Additionally, almost three in five (58 percent) of those aged over 40 said they'd had an argument with their partner in the last month due to mishearing.

When asked, all respondents admitted to having at least one argument with their S/O due to mishearing in the last year.

And it turns out that failing to listen is a pretty common bugbear among the boo'd up, with 57 percent of respondents admitting they would improve their partner's hearing skills if they could. Meanwhile, almost two-thirds (65 percent) identified communication as one of the top three most important aspects of a relationship. Got that loud and clear?

However, not everyone is just a bad listener; some people genuinely struggle to hear. The research also found that more than half (54 percent) of respondents have noticed a genuine sign of hearing loss in their partner, with 22 percent saying it becomes particularly noticeable in a noisy environment. Twenty-six percent said their S/O needs to turn up the volume on the TV or radio, and 12 percent said their partner often asks people to talk more loudly or  clearly. One in 10 (11 percent) also admitted that their partner will avoid social situations due to their hearing loss.

When asked if they believe their partner not listening or frequently mishearing them may be a sign of something more serious, 61 percent of respondents said they thought genuine hearing loss might be to blame. Despite this, only half (51 percent) of those surveyed have encouraged their partner to seek a hearing test.

Of those who have yet to bring up the topic of a hearing test, a third (35 percent) admitted that their partner doesn't believe there is an issue, while one in 10 (11 percent) said they believe the issue might resolve itself. However, a quarter (25 percent) revealed that the prospect of hearing loss hadn't even crossed their mind.

While Valentine's Day has been and gone, Specsavers Audiology senior audiologist Kathryn Launchbury is calling on Kiwis to show their love for their partner by taking notice of the signs of hearing loss.

"We've all been in a situation where we don't feel like our partner is listening. It's easy to just laugh it off when it happens once or twice, but when it becomes more noticeable it is important to talk about the possibility of hearing loss," Launchbury said.

Many of the people audiologists help have been encouraged to get their hearing checked by a partner, family member or a close friend, she added.

"While it may feel like nagging, it can make a world of difference. The sooner we look into a potential issue, the more options there are to combat it and provide a better outcome," she said.

"It's natural to be fearful of something not well understood, which is why we want to get people having conversations about hearing loss with their loved ones. Hearing issues don't necessarily mean living with partial or complete hearing loss, and there is lots we can do for people."

Both Specsavers Audiology and Bay Audiology offer free hearing checks, which run for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Here are the most common symptoms of hearing loss:

  • Muffling of speech and other sounds
  • Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd
  • Trouble hearing consonants
  • Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly
  • Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio
  • Withdrawal from conversations
  • Avoidance of some social settings.

The research was collated by 3Gem in January 2022 from 1863 adult respondents in long-term relationships living in New Zealand.