Difference between Listening and Hearing
Key Difference: Hearing is one of the five senses of a person and it is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations through an organ such as the ear. Listening also known as ‘active listening’ is a technique used in communication which requires a person to pay attention to the speaker and provide feedback. Listening is a step further than hearing, where after the brain receives the nerve impulses and deciphers it, it then sends feedback.
Hearing and Listening, though synonymous, are complete different things. You can hear someone without actually listening to anything. Let’s put it this way, have you ever day dreamed in class? In this, though you were hearing the noise in the classroom, you did not listen to what the teacher was saying.
Hearing is one of the five senses of a person and it is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations through an organ such as the ear. According to Merriam-Webster, hearing is “the process, function, or power of perceiving sound; specifically: the special sense by which noises and tones are received as stimuli.” In hearing, vibrations are detected by the ear and then converted into nerve impulses and sent to the brain. A person who is unable to hear has a condition known as deafness. Hearing occurs even in sleep, where the ear processes the sounds and passes them on to the brain, but the brain does not always react to the sound.
Listening also known as ‘active listening’ is a technique used in communication which requires a person to pay attention to the speaker and provide feedback. Listening is a step further than hearing, where after the brain receives the nerve impulses and deciphers it, it then sends feedback. Listening requires concentration, deriving meaning from the sound that is heard and reacting to it. Listening is a process of communication, where if the person is not listening it can cause a break in communication. Listening is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration.”
There are four types of communicators, a ‘non-listener’ is a person that is preoccupied with his/her own thoughts and though he is hearing he is not paying attention; ‘passive listeners’ hear the words but do not absorb the meaning and only provide vague answers; ‘listeners’ hear and listen, but they only grasp the meaning of talks that interests them, this is most common for people who do not want to listen to a topic on which their views differ and will cease to listen to that and start providing their own ideas. Finally ‘active listeners’ are the best listeners, not only do they hear the person speak, but they also listen with patience and an open mind. They are completely focused on the speaker.
It is said that a good listener becomes the best communicator as he/she understands the value of the words and emotions. They take in importance of speaking in a clear manner to remove chances of misunderstandings. An active listener has lesser chances of misunderstanding and misinterpreting ideas and words as they also pick up on emotions that are attached with the words.
So the main difference between hearing and listening is, while hearing only refers to your ears picking up noise, listening means to interpret the noise, understand it and provide an adequate response to it. Listening also uses other sense in order to be receptive to the other person’s body language.
Image Courtesy: wikimedia.org, michellehenry.fr