Hearing vs. Listening: What’s the Difference?


You might be wondering what the difference is between hearing and listening. Is there a difference? There is a big difference between hearing and listening, including how they are performed, the information they give us, and how they are measured. But what exactly are those differences? Let’s first take a look at what hearing and listening are and then how they are different.

What is Hearing?

Hearing is the physiological processing of sounds and involves perceiving or simply detecting sound. It doesn’t necessarily mean you understand what you’re hearing, but the simple act of your ears picking up the sound is hearing. To measure hearing, an audiogram is used. It tests loudness versus pitch.

Hearing is not something that can be learned. It’s a passive, involuntary process and requires no effort. Even if you can’t detect what someone is saying, the basic act of hearing their voice is what hearing is. When you hear background music in a movie, you may not hear every note or even notice that you’re picking up the sound, but you still hear it.

What is Listening?

Listening, on the other hand, involves receiving and comprehension, and can be categorized into passive or active listening. Instead of simply hearing sounds, listening requires perceiving what is being said, paying attention to it, and giving consideration to what is being said or the sound that’s being made so you can respond to it.

Because listening is more complicated, it can be harder to assess and measure. Your ability to listen depends on your ability to hear, think, and remember. It also depends on your psychological well-being, the amount of background noise, your cognitive ability, and your vocabulary skills.

Listening requires more than just your ears. It requires your ears and your brain and, unlike hearing, is a skill you can learn. You can learn to listen more effectively through training and by using specific hearing equipment like hearing aids.

Learning to listen effectively is often the essence of aural rehabilitation programs for children and adults with auditory processing disorders.

What is the Difference Between Hearing and Listening?

The main difference between hearing and listening is how they are performed. Hearing is completely involuntary and requires doing absolutely nothing, while listening, even passive listening, requires a voluntary action of using your brain to understand what is being said or what the noise is.

Listening requires effort to focus and engage with what’s being said or what’s going on around you. But, because it’s involuntary, hearing requires no effort whatsoever. Your body does it for you.

At Hearing Doctors of New Jersey, when you come in with hearing loss, we want to make sure we are treating more than just your hearing. With our comprehensive exams, we look at all the factors that could be leading to your hearing loss and how it’s affecting your brain and cognitive function. From there, we can find the right advanced hearing technology that will have you hearing everything crystal clear and enable you to actively listen to those around you.

Schedule a Consultation

Are you struggling with listening and comprehending your loved ones? Or perhaps you have trouble hearing the television unless you turn it up to max volume? Whatever your hearing concern is, our audiologists at Hearing Doctors of New Jersey are here to help you. Take the first step and schedule a consultation today! Call our Livingston, NJ office at 973-577-4100 or use our online contact form.