Is there a difference between hearing and listening?

I spent Easter weekend with my parents, siblings and nieces and nephews. It was a crazy time full of fun and laughter. As the Easter egg hunting came to an end, the excitement over the yummy treats they had just received was overwhelming. Candy wrappers were being opened, sticky fingers were everywhere and sugar began to take its toll as it replaced the sweet smiling faces with grumpy faces.

“No more candy until after dinner…” rang in my ears as I saw my niece lunge for another piece. She stopped for a second and then proceeded to place the chocolate egg in her mouth. She had heard the instruction, but didn’t really listen to what was asked of her. The temptation of the creamy chocolate was just too much and she let herself indulge in it despite the repercussions.

There is a distinct difference between being able to hear and being able to listen. Sometimes it has to do with whether or not we want to listen and follow directions, other times it may deal with an auditory processing issue. Hearing and listening are two very distinct abilities.

Hearing is a passive process wherein the ear is able to hear incoming sounds at a normal threshold. It is a process that is based on one’s biology. The ear is complicated and in order to function properly it needs all of its pieces. Hearing is based on having all the pieces and having them work together. When a sound enters the ear, it is considered hearing. Just because a sound enters the ear does not mean that it is understood. This understanding deals more with an individual’s listening skills.

Listening on the other hand is an active process. An individual has to be able to focus on the sound entering the ear while tuning out any distractions. It is a focusing activity that requires an individual to tune out distractions and tune in to relevant sounds. It deals with one’s ability and motivation to listen. If something is not working properly for hearing, it will affect an individual’s listening skills. Being able to hear sounds is the precursor to being able to listen.

Listening requires concentration and an individual has to focus on certain sounds in order to understand words. If a child is sitting in class, surrounded by other kids making noise, and has an auditory processing issue, they are unable to pick out what the teacher is saying. It is no wonder that they would struggle in a class full of distractions and sounds. Being able to identify a child’s auditory issues can change the way that they perform in class and in every other environment.

Ideal listening occurs when the ear is able to lessen the lower frequencies and background sounds while being sensitive to higher frequencies that are associated with language. Due to this it is so important to understand that an individuals ability to listen is affected by their ability to discriminate and distinguish sounds in different contexts. When a child cannot discriminate sounds, it leads to difficulties in class with following directions, reading, spelling, attention, concentration, and cognitive overload.

The difference between being able to hear and listening is so important because it transfers to every area of a person’s life. The good news is that there are ways to help with any auditory issues that a child may have. Here at TLC we have different listening programs and therapies to help a child deal with any deficits that they may have.

Give us a call today to learn more about our programs and how we can help your child deal with listening issues!

Understanding the Difference between Hearing and Learning