Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Guest Post: Listening vs Hearing

The following guest post is from Steve Claridge. For more information about guest posts on Hearing Sparks (I love them!), see here. Take it away, Steve!


Steve Claridge lives near Oxford, UK. He's been steadily losing his hearing since the age of five and has been writing about hearing aid and hearing loss stuff on his blog for over four years. He's also a total geek and loves building stuff on the web and keeping it simple.

How often do you listen and how often do you just hear? Listening and hearing, the same thing, right? defines listening as:
"to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; to wait attentively for a sound"
and it defines hearing as:
"to receive information by the ear"
Hearing is what our ears do (if they are working, of course!) naturally, they convert sound vibrations into signals for our brains. But listening is a totally different thing, it's the act of using our brains to understand the signals we get from our ears.

For people with good hearing ability the act of listening is normally easy, there's little or no effort involved, their brains are getting good signals and can interpret the sounds easily. But have you ever seen someone in a foreign country trying to understand a local? Then they are listening hard to every sound that comes out of their mouth to try and make some sense of it - every sound counts.

How often do you listen? I know I zone-out much more than I should, particularly in boring meetings at weekend - if I stop listening to the conversation then it becomes a mumble and I lose track of what's being said, not because anyone is talking quieter, just because my brain has given up working out what's being said.

How well do you listen and can you get better at it? When you were at school you probably had to repeat the times tables over and over again until they stuck, repetition implanted them in your head. If you play enough Brain Training games you get really quick at doing simple arithmetic. You can teach yourself to speed read. You can teach your brain to do many things and listening and understanding speech is one of them.

The idea behind learning to listen better is a lot like the Brain Training games i.e. repeat simple exercises over and over until you get good. There's an application called LACE, which I guess you could call brain training for your ears, I did a review of this a long while ago, which you can read here. I never really gave LACE the time it needed when I tried it back then but I've recently realised that that was a mistake - my listening skills could be a lot better if I'd persevered with it.

Learning to listen isn't something that you can do overnight it takes time and patience but I really do think it can pay off for you.

1 comment:

  1. So true! It is not easy to truly listen to others, but it is such a gift of love and respect. Particularly as a parent, I find it every time I truly listen to my children, I can almost feel the love that's being created. It can be so easy to get caught up in life and ignore your kid's concerns, especially if there is a report to write or bills to worry about.
    But by listening, not only does the love and understanding grow, but also self-esteem and patience. Well worth it, as you point out!


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