by Monica Duve, Doctor of Audiologyby Monica Duve, Doctor of Audiology
Killean Audiology & Hearing Aid Centers
A powerful way to connect to another person is to listen.
Many people believe that hearing what is said is the same as listening to what to what is being said, however, when one looks up the definitions of these two words they are distinctly different. Webster’s Dictionary defines hearing as, “the act of perceiving sound.” A few page turns later, listening is defined as, “to give attention to sound or attend closely for the purpose of hearing.” Listening unlike hearing, is a skill rather than simply a sense and can be improved through effort and practice.
You can hear someone speak without actually listening to their words. This happens many times while we are in a crowded area where many others are talking but not directlly to us. Hearing defines only the physical measurement of the sound waves that are transmitted to the ear and into the brain where they are processed into audible information. Hearing occurs with or without your consent. It is such a passive quality, it even occurs while you sleep. When you merely hear someone’s words but are not listening to what’s being said, it can lead to misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and resentments.
Listening goes beyond the natural hearing process. It means paying attention to the words that are being spoken with the intention of understanding the other person. Your own personal perceptions can affect the quality of your listening skills. The phrase many people use called “selective hearing” should actually be called “selective listening”. One way to improve hearing, if you or a loved one is experiencing hearing loss, is to use hearing aids. This ensures that sounds and speech can be heard. A hearing aid, however, cannot improve listening skills all by itself. The hearing aid user must put forth effort to listen. Developing good listening skills takes time and effort.
Good listening does not happen overnight. In fact a good or effective listener will listen to not only what is being said, but also use nonverbal cues to observe what is left unsaid or only partially said. Listening requires more than that: it requires focus. Listening means paying attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice, and how the other person uses his or her body. In other words, it means being aware of both verbal and non-verbal messages. Your ability to listen effectively depends on the degree to which you perceive and understand these messages.
With practice all of us, whether hard of hearing or not, can all become better listeners.