Listening and Hearing
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Listening and Hearing
Julian Treasure defines listening as making meaning from sound. Humans simplify this process through the use of patterns that help to distinguish noise from important signals such as someone calling our names or the measured cadence of the music. Nevertheless, the development of modern technologies for recording and replaying conversations means that people’s listening skills have worsened over time. According to Treasure, humans spend approximately 60% of their time listening but only retain 25% of what they hear (Treasure, 2011). Consequently, there is a lot of information lost in the communication process reducing its efficiency. Treasure’s talk explores the difference between hearing and listening, where the latter is passive and relies on the use of patterns to derive meaning from sounds while the latter requires active participation.
Listening is essential to effective communication and collaboration as it helps to understand the other person’s perspective and goals. However, over the last two centuries, humans have gotten used to suppressing sounds due to the rising prevalence of noise pollution. There are multiple drivers for the underdeveloped listening skills, including advances in recording methodologies (writing, audio, and video), that reduce the need for careful and accurate listening (Treasure, 2011). Furthermore, the visual and auditory cacophony in the world makes it tiring to listen attentively, thus catalyzing the use of headphones. Additionally, populations have become impatient while the art of conversation is gradually replaced by personal broadcasting where one party never communicates (Goodman, 2017). Nevertheless, noise pollution only affects hearing, which is passive and automatic compared to listening, which is a learned skill.
Recognizing the potential adverse consequences of reduced listening, Treasure offers five recommendations to improve listening skills. The first is Silence, where one spends at least three minutes daily in absolute Silence to recalibrate the mind. This is meditative as living in a noisy environment can skew one’s perception of sound (Treasure, 2011). The second recommendation is paying attention to the different sounds that one can identify in any environment. The approach is useful in learning new patterns and meanings for sounds which can ease future filtering. Treasure’s third recommendation is savoring, where one seeks to enjoy mundane sounds such as a tumble dryer. A fourth recommendation is changing listening positions to consciously listen through different filters. The final recommendation is RASA (Recieve, Appreciate, Summarize, and Ask).  Receiving involves paying attention to the speaker, appreciating requires making little affirmations like “oh,” “ok,” and “hmm,” summarizing the message, and then asking questions afterward to clarify needed information. These recommendations indicate that listening involves much more than hearing.
Listening requires the receiver to intentionally experience as accurately as possible, the speaker’s communications. Furthermore, an active listener focuses on the details that others might leave out but reflect their inner experiences. Moreover, listening requires one to recognize the speaker’s thoughts, attitudes, and feelings towards his subject. A listener interprets both verbal and non-verbal input while recognizing that such interpretations must remain tentative, awaiting further clarification (Ohlenforst et al., 2017). Finally, the listener must convey the fact that he is listening, otherwise, the listening has limited value to the communication. As human lifestyles have changed, their auditory systems evolved to filter out non-critical sounds, which lead to the filtering of known patterns. However, while hearing is automatic and an evolutionary acquired trait, listening requires active focus. The focus is necessary to immerse oneself in the speaker’s emotions, attitudes, and experiences about a topic, which enhances comprehension.
Goodman, L. E. (2017). Listening and Hearing. Society, 54(2), 163-170.
Ohlenforst, B., Zekveld, A. A., Lunner, T., Wendt, D., Naylor, G., Wang, Y., … & Kramer, S. E. (2017). Impact of stimulus-related factors and hearing impairment on listening effort as indicated by pupil dilation. Hearing Research, 351, 68-79.
Treasure, J. (2011). Five Ways to Listen Better. Retrieved from

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