You’ve heard the saying you have selective hearing?  Well, if you are in a long term relationship with someone you actually do. Science has recently proven that the voice of your partner is so distinctive that it is easier to hear - and easier to ignore.

Recent research has shown that, in a noisy room, the familiar voice of a spouse can clearly be picked out against other voices, helping to sharpen auditory perception and making it easier to focus on one voice at a time.

The down side of that familiarity is that people, particularly those who are middle-aged, are able to separate or ignore a familiar voice to hear an unfamiliar voice better.

The familiar voice helps you brain to organize your auditory scene, according to Ingrid Johnsrude of Queen’s University, Canada.

In the study they asked married couples, aged 44-79, to record themselves reading scripted instructions out loud.

Then participants donned headphones and listened to the recording of his or her partner as it played simultaneously with a recording of an unfamiliar voice.

Researchers wanted to see whether familiarity would make a difference in how well the participants understood what the target voice was saying.

The results, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reveal a clear benefit of listening to the familiar voice.

But when participants were asked to report the unfamiliar voice, age-related differences emerged.

Middle-aged adults seemed to be relatively adept at following the unfamiliar voice, especially when it was masked by their spouse’s voice - that is, they were better at understanding the unfamiliar voice when it was masked by their spouse’s voice compared to when it was masked by another unfamiliar voice.