There is a cranky person in this town who will suddenly 'become deaf' if we contradict him. AS IN,

I say, "how do you like the weather?"

He says, "quite nasty weather!"

In fact it is very fine weather and I say so.

and he says, "what did you say? Can you speak up, because I cannot hear you" etc.

Now I know this is an extreme literal case but many a person goes figuratively deaf if we say something that he/she does not want to hear.

Is there a single word for such a person in the literal/figurative sense?

Note: I googled it and found idioms such as these but not a 'single word for such a person'.

fall on deaf ears Fig. [for talk or ideas] to be ignored by the persons they were intended for. Her pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears; the judge gave her the maximum sentence. All of Sally's good advice fell on deaf ears. Walter had made up his own mind. See also: deaf, ear, fall, on

There's none so deaf as those who will not hear. Prov. If you tell someone something that he or she does not want to know, he or she will not pay attention to you. I tried repeatedly to tell my supervisor about the low morale in our department, but there's none so deaf as those who will not hear.

turn a deaf ear (to someone or something) to ignore what someone says; to ignore a cry for help. How can you just turn a deaf ear to their cries for food and shelter? Jack turned a deaf ear to our pleading. See also: deaf, ear, turn

(Source: http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/deafness)

  • 1
    In my house, that's called a teenager. Commented May 1, 2017 at 22:30
  • @Roger Sinasohn Very true! Commented May 1, 2017 at 22:32
  • reminds me a bit of : stonewall (maybe turn it into a noun "stonewaller" ?) gerund or present participle: stonewalling delay or block (a request, process, or person) by refusing to answer questions or by giving evasive replies, especially in politics.en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/stonewall --- perhaps applicable in some situations but not all that you describe
    – Tom22
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 23:51
  • @Tom22 Stonewaller is a good option. Evasive also makes itself a (tangential) possibility as in 'evade' the unwanted discussion simply by 'not hearing' it! Commented May 1, 2017 at 23:54
  • the reason I don't think I'd submit stonewaller as an answer is that the main thrust of the word is "obstruction" .. with the method of obstruction being a deliberate deafness to reasonable arguments.
    – Tom22
    Commented May 2, 2017 at 0:28

1 Answer 1


We often say something like "Henry has selective hearing." This is often followed by "He only hears what he wants to hear."

While selective hearing might describe a clinical problem (also referred to as selective auditory attention), it's a common expression.

The clinical explanation suggests it is not voluntary, but in common usage, observers generally suggest that it is deliberate. It can be used (perhaps half jokingly) when referring to an aging spouse who may appear to be hard of hearing, but miraculously is able to hear some things that others might not expect to be heard. However, age is not a necessary part of selective hearing, as many teenagers are accused of it, also.

At Urban Dictionary, it is explained this way:

one posseses this quality when they hear only what they would like to hear.

  • Very nice answer! Some people certainly have 'selective hearing.' Commented May 1, 2017 at 22:21
  • I'll shall turn a Nelsonian blind eye to all of this tomfoolery and will continue to switch my trusty ear trumpet to my good ear whenever there is too much piffle and prattle coming my way. Commented May 2, 2017 at 0:05
  • This is not an answer to the question asking for a single-word for a person who will suddenly 'become deaf' if we contradict him. Commented May 2, 2017 at 0:48
  • @Mahmud Koya it is one of the possible answers because I did ask for words to describe not only the 'literal' case but also people not hearing you when they don't want to, as in refusing to listen to something they don't want to hear. Commented May 2, 2017 at 5:05
  • I believe Mahmud Koya is referring to your single word request, which is often only given loose attention when a single word is elusive. It may be helpful if you added the tag phrase requests to your question if you are willing to consider those, too. As far as literal vs figurative, I would consider the clinical term to represent literal deafness (albeit reversible), and the common phrase to be figurative. Commented May 2, 2017 at 5:19

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