What is the difference between hearing and listening?

listening ears - a profile shot of my pet cat and his listening ear...
Philippines
August 22, 2007 1:01pm CST
Aside from the spelling, there is a significant difference between hearing and listening. Personally, I think hearing is just the ears sensing sounds. Listening, on the other hand, is intentional hearing, that is, going beyond just hearing sounds but giving careful attention and meaning to those sounds -- like what the interpreting the "meow" of my pet cat.. or the nonstop honking of my sister's car in the garage.. or the words coming out from my friend's mouth when he or she confides with me. For you, in what other ways can we differentiate hearing and listening?
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13 responses
• United States
22 Aug 07
dreamleaper, I have to agree with you that when a person is truly listening that person is active in listening. So many times as spouses or parents we just hear the words another is speaking, and we are not practicing active listening. Often this is when misunderstandings take place. I think we do a disservice to people who need are full attention when we are not actively listening to what they are communicating. Sometimes we just have so many other things on our minds it cant be helped. But we can strive to change this bad behavior and give the attention which the other person deserves.
• Philippines
22 Aug 07
you're right..and i believe the world could be more peaceful if all of us will really take time to listen not just with our ears but more importantly with open hearts and open minds.. =)
• United Arab Emirates
23 Aug 07
Hearing is different from listening. We hear many different sounds but we do not listen to all of them. Listening needs concentration. We hear all and listen to only few important things. listening to somethings needs concentration.
@lingli_78 (12841)
• Australia
23 Aug 07
i totally agree with you... there is a big difference between these two things... hearing is simply hearing... but listening is hearing with understanding and sometimes to the extent of putting our emotional feelings into it (empathy)... it is very easy to hear but not that easy to listen... all of us can hear but few who can actually be a good listener...
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@su3ren (68)
• India
23 Aug 07
Hearing is a sense that mostof you are gifted to you by nature. hearing is simply sensed without any conscious effort while listening us an art. you need to pay attention to listen.....
• United States
23 Aug 07
I agree with you on the difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is just the ears sensing sounds. Listening is something you do to have a conversation with someone and actually know what they are talking about. It's a bunch different. Hearing isn't listening at all. I have problems with this myself. Like when my grandma is talking to me and I'm preoccupied with the computer or tv. I'm not really listening at all. But when I'm not doing something I'm listening because I'm not doing something else.
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@theprogamer (10539)
• United States
22 Aug 07
I'll try to steer away from the science vs philosophy ramble and I'll just give you my heart of heart on this subject. Hearing is just listening to the sounds, many times you really aren't paying attention to what is being said or what is going on. Sometimes, you'll cue in on certain sounds due to importance or conditioned responses (a scream, dinner oven beeper, phone ring) and at the same time you may well ignore the sounds depending on what they are. Listening is very different from that. Listening is an essential part of communication and can be called a discipline from some perspectives. You pay attention to what is being said, you use eye contact to help place trust and belief into the person who is talking to you, and when possible you reciprocate. There are times where one should just listen and absorb, not talk, but it depends on the conversation and the person in question (your friend may want your advice on something and will tell you a story, your spouse on the other hand will talk to you but may just want you to listen to his/her plight and not give any input). You'll have to know who you are talking to, and you'll have to exercise patience when listening to close ones.
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@clocks123 (1228)
• United States
22 Aug 07
hearing is a sense that we use listening is a true art we have alot of talkers but not enough listeners i have to remind myself to listen instead of just talk or not really hear what the person or whatever is being said
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@ryanphil01 (4185)
• Philippines
22 Aug 07
Indeed you are right, dreamleaper17, there is a significant difference between hearing and listening and I agree with what you said! To me, hearing is simply the act of perceiving sound by the ear. If you are not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something you consciously choose to do. Listening requires concentration so that your brain processes meaning from words and sentences. Listening leads to learning. Most people tend to be "hard of listening" rather than "hard of hearing."
• India
25 Nov 07
listening is consuming the matter with soul
• Canada
23 Aug 07
I believe that hearing is merely the physical act of using the ears to discern sound, while listening is the mental act of deciphering those same sounds and trying to make sense of them.
@pendragon (3352)
• United States
23 Aug 07
Hearing is being assaulted by sound, listening is paying attention to that sound. I hear a drip, so I focus and listen to find out where it's coming from.With a person it's them speaking and then you turning and nodding,eye contact...adding silent touches to the conversation to show that you have understood.
@crazynurse (7489)
• United States
23 Aug 07
Yup, I agree with you. Listening involves putting meaning to the words and sounds that one hears. I always teach my nursing students to listen for the message that is underneath the words. That is where true communication takes place..when someone responds to the MESSGAE rather than the words!
• United States
23 Aug 07
You have given a good description of the difference. When someone is really listening they are duplicating what is being said. When they are simply "hearing" they are half there - not totally in communication with you. sunnywaters