The Difference Between Hearing and Listening

Have you ever talked to someone and felt that they just weren’t getting what you were saying, even though they were nodding along and maintaining eye contact? They could be hearing what you’re saying, but they just aren’t listening. We typically use “hearing” and “listening” interchangeably, but it’s important to know the difference. According to Merriam-Webster, hearing is defined as “the process, function, or power of perceiving sound” and listening is defined as “to hear something with thoughtful attention”.

In other words, hearing is passive and involuntary, while listening is active and voluntary. We hear, whether we want to or not, but we need to choose to actively listen. Some people don’t have the choice, even when their hearing is excellent. We need to process what we hear in order to completely listen, otherwise the sound goes in one ear and out the other. Listening is a lifelong skill that is necessary for one to make sense of his or her surroundings.

At Little Listener’s, we work with patients to improve their listening skills with various therapy activities so that they can process, communicate, and interact more effectively with the world around them.


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