Listening and Hearing: Are They the Same Thing?

Free Essay Database Online

Listening and Hearing: Are They the Same Thing?

Listening and Hearing: Are They the Same Thing?

Listening differs from hearing in the sense that they are two different processes. When one hears the words “listen” and “hear”, he or she automatically assumes both words mean the same exact thing; however, that is not the case. According to Merriam-Webster, listen means to hear something with thoughtful attention. Hear means to perceive or become aware of by the ear. Listening is an active process while hearing is a more “natural” process, which takes place without really knowing it’s actually occurring at times. You may still be asking what the difference between the two is, so I’ll elaborate furthermore.

Listening is intentionally and attentively done in order to receive meaning. According to Michel Chion, each type of listening has a different purpose, or agenda. In other words, “… there are at least three modes of listening, each of which addresses different objects. We shall call them causal listening, semantic listening, and reduced listening” (Chion). Causal is the most common type of listening. It’s used to find the purpose of a certain sound. For example, if one hears tears, he or she might listen further to see where the tears are coming from. Semantic listening is a code based kind of listening. The reason behind this type of listening is for the meaning behind something, the actual message. Listening to someone speak another language and interpreting it is a great way to listen semantically. Reduced listening is more difficult because only the pure sound is listened, but not for the meaning of it. A perfect example would be an instrumental. The tune is being listened to without the lyrics.

Listening doesn’t just have to be done solely through ears. In “Sound and Touch Collide, Virginia Hughes talks about the impact sound has on her body. “My entire body rebels at certain pitches, which I’ve noticed with radio announcers,” she told Ro. “I have to change the station”(Hughes). Hughes is a woman who had a stroke and lost feeling on the left side of her body; however, she could actually feel sound throughout her body. This is known as the condition of synesthesia, “a neurological mix-up of the senses” (Hughes). You can listen with your body and literally feel sounds move through you.

For someone like Evelyn Glennie, who is deaf, it is still possible to listen. Listening is active, in the sense that, it is purposely being done and can be done in more than one way. In her TEDTalk, she talked about her conversation with a teacher who was puzzled about how she was going to hear, considering she was mostly deaf. When her teacher told her that he heard by ear, she responded, “Well I think I do too, but I also hear it through my hands, arms, my cheekbones, my scalp, my stomach, my chest, my legs, and so on.” Music, for example, sends chills down my spine. I feel the vibrations through my body and sometimes that even leaves goosebumps on my arms. The song “Killing Me Softly” by Lauryn Hill leaves me with these physical feelings. She sings just the word “softly” with a calming voice each time, relaxing me. Whenever she stretches a note, it sends chills down my back. The combination of the base and the beat creates a type of indescribable warmness. Through listening, I was able to feel the song, which seems to be much easier than the process of hearing, for the simple reason that you may not know exactly what you’re hearing.