The difference between hearing and listening has to do with the types of physiological or cognitive processes associated with each.
Hearing perceives a sound, which requires the functioning of the sense of hearing and the auditory system to interpret what it is about.
Listening, on the other hand, involves not only the action of hearing sounds, but also understanding them and responding based on these stimuli. Therefore, it involves cognitive processes of attention, concentration, memory and learning.
Difference between Hearing and Listening
Let’s check below what is the difference between hearing and listening and what are their other features.
What is Hearing
Hearing is the action of perceiving a sound, therefore, it refers to the physiological capacity to receive a stimulus in the form of sound waves and interpret it.
When we walk down the street and we can perceive the sound of the wind, the horns of the cars or some upcoming conversation, we are hearing.
Hearing requires no specific action or will. The sounds are in the environment and the auditory system is responsible for capturing them.
In that sense, hearing is a response of our body to a sound stimulus, it is not something that we can control at will. This means that we cannot avoid hearing, unless we take the appropriate measures (wearing headphones, covering our ears, or being in an isolated room).
Hearing comes from the Latin audiere , which means to perceive a sound.
What do we Need to Hear
To hear, the correct functioning of the auditory system is required, which consists of three parts:
- Outer Ear
It is the visible part of the ear. It is made up of the lobe, the pinna, and the eardrum.
- Middle Ear
It is the part that communicates the outer ear with the inner ear. There is the chain of ossicles, composed of three bony structures called the hammer, anvil and stapes.
- Inner ear
The cochlea (a snail-shaped structure) contains the auditory cells and nerves that send sound to the brain.
How does the Auditory System Work
Sound is made up of sound waves. These stimuli enter the outer ear and pass through the eardrum generating vibrations.
These vibrations reach the middle ear and the chain of ossicles is responsible for receiving and sending them to the inner ear.
When these sound waves reach the cochlea, they drive the output of the hair cells, responsible for converting the vibrations into electrical impulses, which are then sent to the brain through the auditory nerve.
Once in the brain, these impulses are interpreted as sounds. This means that the auditory system does not stop, since this process occurs continuously with all the sound stimuli that are in the environment and that we can perceive.
Factors that can Affect Hearing
Having a hearing system does not mean that you have the ability to hear. There are a few factors that can affect this ability:
- Pathologies (innate or not) that generated hearing loss.
- Age: In some people, aging implies hearing loss.
- Traumas , that is, accidents or injuries that damaged the auditory system.
Depending on the type of pathology or trauma, it is possible to recover the ability to hear totally or partially with the help of hearing aids or clump implants, after a medical evaluation.
What is Listening
Listening is the act of paying attention to a sound. This requires the functioning of the auditory system and also other cognitive and psychological processes or functions.
Listening requires the will of the listener, because if your auditory system works properly you will hear. But it is your interest, concentration, attention and memory that will allow you to understand, retain and even respond to what you hear.
Listening comes from the Latin aus-cultare , which means “to bend down to apply the ear.”
How do we listen
In the communicative process there are several elements:
- Sender : is the one who sends the message.
- Receiver : is the one who receives the message.
- Code : is the system used to create the message (Spanish language, binary code, etc.).
- Message : is what you want to transmit or communicate.
- Channel : is the medium used to send the message (telephone, web, email, etc.).
- Noise : these are interferences or problems that may arise during communication.
- Feedback : is the response given by the receiver, which from that moment becomes the sender.
- Context : it is the situation in which the communicative act is generated.
For the communicative process to take place successfully, it is required that the sender sends a message, and that the receiver receives and interprets it. If the situation warrants it, the receiver will have to respond ( feedback ), but will not be able to do it properly if they did not understand or did not pay attention to the message.
A classic example of listening is that of a class in which all students are hearing what is being said, but not all are listening. Some students are not attentive, others may not hear well, others may be able to hear but do not have the cognitive ability to understand what they are hearing, etc.
Factors that can Affect Listening
Hearing does not necessarily mean listening. There are some factors that can interfere with this process:
- Hearing problems : if a sound is not perceived properly, it will be difficult to interpret it.
- Attention difficulties : people with attention deficit cannot concentrate on a task for a long time. This can lead to listening problems.
- Problems in the communication process : noise, incomplete message, failures in communication channels, etc.
- Cognitive problems: memory loss or dementia can cause problems understanding what you hear.