Did you know that most of the work of hearing is done not by your ears but by your brain? It’s true that sounds are taken in by our ears, and they must function properly for us to hear, but processing the sounds into meaning is solely a function of our brains. What is the difference between hearing and listening? We hear a lot, but we only process what we listen to, and that takes brain power. Thus training our brains to listen becomes essential if we are to engage with the world around us.
Communication is important: everywhere we go, we need to be able to communicate with people around us. Even the best hearing aids can only enhance your ability to hear; they can never replace or improve listening skills. To truly listen, it is important to block out distracting background noises so we can listen to spoken words in busy environments.
When we actively communicate with others, we are training our brains to listen. If we don’t practice active listening, even if it is as a result of a hearing issue or older age, we can lose some of our listening skills. Practicing active listening on a daily basis can actually help to improve hearing and communication over time.
The Difference Between Hearing and Listening
Hearing is the act of recognizing sound. Being startled by a bang or turning your head at an unexpected noise both indicate hearing ability. This is called signal-based processing. Listening, however, requires both knowledge and hearing.
Listening is only accomplished through hearing and understanding a message or sound. Recognizing a message in spoken words is listening; hearing problems can affect listening skills, but they are not the same thing.
Strategies for Communication
At California Hearing Center, our audiologists understand that the differences between listening and hearing become more evident as we age. Older people may express that they can hear spoken words, but they do not understand what is being said. Listening skills can be improved with information, tools, and training. Listening skills can always be improved, whether you use a hearing device or not. By providing our patients with access to training resources and professional guidance, we can help you train your brain so it can listen and hear at a suitable level.
Serving residents throughout Belmont, Burlingame, Millbrae, San Carlos, San Mateo, CA, and the surrounding communities, our compassionate hearing doctors and staff can provide you with strategies and tactics tailored to your needs. Some of these strategies may include:
- Telling others around you how to speak more clearly
- Understanding realistically what your hearing aid can do
- Using other technologies that can help with hearing and sound cancelling
- Joining a class or group that can teach you how to listen more effectively
- Using subtitles or closed captioning on the TV and with movies
In addition to the above suggestions, we can also provide you with information about new technology and therapies available that can bolster your listening skills and prevent further decline. Hearing aids for example, are certainly a great starting point, and while some people need them, they are not the only solution for those having difficulty hearing. Auditory and cognitive training is another important way to engage the brain and improve listening abilities.
It is important to educate yourself how the brain is related to hearing and listening skills. Listening exercises can help you to practice various communication strategies that help you to train your brain to listen. Below are three listening exercises you can try at home:
- Watch and record a television show without closed captioning, playing it back with closed caption to evaluate how well you heard and understood everything that was happening.
- Read a book while simultaneously listening to the audio-book version
- Have a friend read a newspaper aloud, then do it again, reading along with them as they talk
Once you’ve had some practice with the above exercises, try performing each exercise in gradually louder environments. This can help you to continue to build and fine tune your listening skills.
Just having the ability to hear does not automatically grant effective communication or listening skills. Hearing devices can be a great help, but listening skills involve actual hearing as well as the ability to understand. By being open to learning new communication strategies and practicing hearing exercises that train your brain to listen more carefully, you can improve your understanding and listening abilities despite hearing loss.
For more information or to request an appointment to have your hearing evaluated, contact California Hearing Center today. With two convenient office locations in San Carlos and San Mateo, CA, we look forward to providing you with the resources to empower and help you feel more confident as you progress on your hearing journey.