The Difference Between Hearing and Listening

Listening
Listening | Source

Communication is a two-way process. Many people neither listen to nor understand what another person says or feels because they do not know the difference between hearing and listening. When someone is speaking to them, they say, “I hear what you are saying” rather than, “I am listening to what you are saying.” In reality, there is a huge difference between hearing and listening.

Communication is a two way process. Many people do not listen and do not understand what the other person says or feels because they do not know the difference between hearing and listening.

Note: this article can be used as a reference for people who are working towards any qualifications in customer service, especially the NVQ Level 2 or Level 3 Diploma or Certificate in Customer Services. The article can be used as reference for the unit below:

Unit A3: Communicate effectively with customers

Hearing Vs Listening: A Summary

Hearing
Listening
1. A physical ability and not a conscious act (Physiological)
A skill and conscious act (Psychological)
2. Is hearing randomly
Is listening intentionally and analysing
3. Everyone who is physically able to hears
Not everyone listens
4. Perceiving sound by the ear
Making an effort to understand using reception, analysis, and interpretation.
5. Involuntary
Voluntary
6. You just hear sound and noise but do not understand much
You understand what is being said or heard.
7. Does not need focus
Needs focus and care
8. Hearing uses only one of the five senses.
Listening uses hearing, seeing and sometimes the sense of touch.
9. Receiving sound vibrations
Observing behaviour and adding meaning to what the speaker says
10. Passive
Active

What is Hearing?

Hearing is an action in which a sound is perceived by the ear. Very little or no effort is required as your mind may be occupied with other thoughts or perhaps you are engaged in a different task while the other person is sharing his or her thoughts with you. This is a passive process.

Hearing in Daily Life

We hear something around us all the time.

While you are at home, you might hear the sound of other people talking, the sound of cooking in the kitchen, the sound of the television, and the sound of anything that is happening around. While you are at work, depending on where you work, you hear the sound of various things around you. While on the road you hear the sound of traffic and any events in the public, the people laughing, talking, shouting etc.

At the end of the day, after you go to bed and fall asleep, you hear sounds even while you sleep. All these happen around you, and you do not necessarily notice it. It is just sound waves reaching your ears. Hearing is an alarm system which operates even outside your immediate awareness.

This also applies to music. Nowadays music is played everywhere: in shopping malls, in restaurants, in supermarkets, in offices. Not all of us listen to that music and acquire anything from it. In a way, this devalues music. Most people use music to just fill the silence while they are doing other tasks.

Listening Process
Listening Process | Source

What is Listening?

Listening is an action in which you choose to actively concentrate on what you hear. You need to put in a lot more effort in terms of attention, processing, thinking, and analysing. You do not think about anything else, or get engaged in any other tasks, but instead sit down and listen to what the speaker is saying. You notice the feeling and meaning of what is being said. This is an active process.

How to Listen

When you listen, you need to pay attention in order to interpret and respond. Listening is a skill that can be improved with a little bit of hard work, dedication and determination. In every relationship, we come across this complaining phrase: “You never listen” or “You do not want to listen.” Do you want that to be said about you?

Multitasking is a big culprit when it comes to people's inability to listen. For example, I'll often encounter people reading something on the Internet while someone is talking to them. I also encounter people trying to listen to someone while typing something on their computers or staring at their phones. These are common scenarios that occur in offices and personal lives almost every day. These behaviours clearly indicate a lack of respect on the part of the listener.This tells the speaker that they are less important than the work that the listener is doing, putting the speaker in an awful situation.

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.

— Ernest Hemingway
Source

How to Be an Active Listener

  • Focus on the speaker and not yourself. Keep your eyes and ears focused on the speaker without making them feel uncomfortable.
  • If speaking on the phone, concentrate by focusing at a particular spot and do not look around.
  • Provide feedback on what the speaker has said.
  • Use paraphrasing (repeating what the other person has said, but not verbatim) skills to understand the speaker’s needs.
  • When there are people who talk a lot, they can politely be informed about the limited time, and be requested to talk about their important concerns (This applies when you have limited appointment times).
  • Listen patiently to all concerns without interrupting and in the end do not forget to ask a customer if they have any questions for you.
  • Be patient when you wait for responses by maintaining silence.
  • Always keep an eye on the speaker’s body language and the tone of their voice, because these two behaviours speak a lot.
  • Write down important information in the form of keywords on a piece of paper.
  • Keep your emotions away from the situation.
  • Do not jump to conclusions before completely listening.
  • Ask the speaker to repeat if you have not understood something.

Listening Well

Why Do People Find it Hard to Listen?

Very few people have refined the ability to hear into the art of listening. People fail to listen for many reasons, including:

  • Only hearing what they expect or want to hear
  • Not being open to new ideas
  • Lacking understanding of another's situation
  • Lack of empathy about how the other person feels
  • Lacking patience to sit down and listen
  • Self-centeredness and egoism
  • Tending to be defensive
  • Spending a conversation planning what to say next instead of listening
  • Rushing through everything and not wanting to sit down for a few minutes to listen to others
  • Feeling awkward or uncomfortable with something the speaker said

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

— Stephen R. Covey
Source

Why is Listening More Important than Hearing?

If you need to understand the importance of listening, just think for a moment. When we speak to someone, what do we expect them to do? How do we expect them to react? Treat others the same way you wish to be treated. Give your best.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

— Stephen R. Covey

Listening is important because it helps you socialise and get along in a professional environment. You know what is expected of you, and you are able to resolve issues by arriving at good decisions. Listening shows people that you are interacting with them and that you appreciate and give importance to their thoughts and feelings. It helps you cooperate with other people and make decisions easily without any errors. It also shows that you are polite. Listeners understand better and are more productive. People, in general, avoid bad listeners.

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

— Leo Buscaglia
Source

Benefits of listening:

  • You are appreciated if you listen with full concentration
  • Accomplish better results quicker
  • Helps to build a better relationship, be it professional or personal
  • You gain more customers or clients as you are genuinely interested to serve them
  • Improves the quality of the company / organisation
  • You make a difference in people’s life and mind
  • You get to know customers / clients better and understand their needs
  • It helps you get into the very heart of their problems / issues
  • It helps to provide better service and produce better results
  • Customer / client expectations are met
  • Shows that we respect acknowledge and care for them
  • It delights customers / clients and shows that we are empathetic
  • You learn new information
  • You can deal with people easily
  • Everyone likes people who listen
  • Helps you develop leadership and management skills
  • Helps one to be successful in life / career by performing up to their expectations
  • Avoids misunderstandings and conflicts

Source

Effective Listening Skills

The only similarity between hearing and listening is that you do both with the aid of ears.

Listening is very important when it comes to customer service and other professions where you have to listen to people at all times. For example, doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, counselors, journalists, interviewers, teachers, tutors, advisers etc. Almost all professions require listening skills at some point or the other. In an office and home environment, we are around people who want to be listened. It is always good to improve your listening skills and be a better listener and a better human.

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Comments 66 comments

livingsta profile image

livingsta 5 weeks ago from United Kingdom Author

Dear Student, I am pleased that you found this information helpful. Yes, you can cite the table and the source should be the link of the article page. I am not sure of what information you have been requested to add to the References section. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


livingsta profile image

livingsta 5 weeks ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello CYong, I can't agree less with your view. This is so true and I come across this very often in my personal and work life and it is sad. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on this.


Student 2 months ago

Dear author, the article is very useful and the table with contrasts between hearing and listening is excellent! Could you, please, tell me if there is a possibility to cite the table in a thesis and what would the source be? Thank you very much!


Jocelyn Guo 2 months ago

sometimes we need listening the customers what is need ,especial in custom industry, we need the more information from the customer and their request ,then could produce the nice jewelry shop showcase for customer.

www.degreefurniture.com


CYong74 profile image

CYong74 2 months ago from Singapore

Fantastic hub. This is one area that way, way too many customer service people insist on ignoring.


mohammed karjat profile image

mohammed karjat 4 months ago from Pune

Sometimes it happens that there a more than one person talking and you are hearing the voices of them all. However, if you like someones talk, you listen to him carefully from them all and give all your attention to him.


harsh 4 months ago

hlo livingsta your notes in vary easy

meri bhut help kiti aa exams lyi tnx


harsh 4 months ago

hlo livingsta u r notes is very easy.

mere li thohade noted bhut hi benefit wale rahe


livingsta profile image

livingsta 6 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello letstalkabouteduc, how sad, but true. We have to pay to listen these days. Only if people understood the importance of listening! Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and experience. Have a great week ahead :-)


livingsta profile image

livingsta 6 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello Aesta1,

Thank you for stopping by. I am glad that you found this useful. Have a lovely week ahead :-)


livingsta profile image

livingsta 6 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello Samuel Smart, so true right? If only people listened, this world would be a better place in many ways. Thank you for stopping by and voicing your thoughts. Have a great week ahead! :-)


livingsta profile image

livingsta 6 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello Dhimanreena, how true. I agree to what you say. I am glad that you found this hub interesting :-)


livingsta profile image

livingsta 6 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello Loyal99,

Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts and approach. I am glad that you liked it. Have a great week :-)


livingsta profile image

livingsta 6 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello Surveyequipment, so true. I completely agree with you. There aren't many people nowadays who really listen and it is sad. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a great week :-)


livingsta profile image

livingsta 8 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello Jasmine, thank you :)


livingsta profile image

livingsta 8 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello Ihsan ullah, thank you so much. Glad that you found this useful. All the best! :)


livingsta profile image

livingsta 8 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello Tahiraahsan, thank you so much. All the best! :)


livingsta profile image

livingsta 8 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello Peta M, wow, thank you so much. Thank you also for letting me know. Sure made my day! All the best :)


livingsta profile image

livingsta 8 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello Sahlabi, thank you so much. I am pleased that this helped you. All the best! :)


livingsta profile image

livingsta 8 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello Mikel Isuacilq, you're welcome. Thank you for your appreciation! :)


livingsta profile image

livingsta 8 months ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello Charmaine, thank you so much. All the best! :)


jasmine 11 months ago

that is weard but entertaning


ihsan ullah 11 months ago

very informative and accurate information


tahiraahsan 13 months ago

glad it was informatic


surveyequipment profile image

surveyequipment 14 months ago from Sandy

Great hub - just wish a few more would read and practice this.


Loyal99 14 months ago

Great Read , very helpful .

You have given all the relevant information . Loyale' follows the same approach – By thinking from other’s perspective and changing your view, you are already ahead of the game.


dhimanreena profile image

dhimanreena 14 months ago

Thanks for sharing good piece of info about listening and hearing skills. “ A good listener is always a good speaker “ So. Always strive to be a good listener then you are a good speaker.


Samuel Smart profile image

Samuel Smart 15 months ago from United States

This is a wonderful article. No wonder this world is in a mess. People don't listen to something that could be valuable to them. Instead, they insist to go their own ways.


Peta M 15 months ago

Thank you for the interesting piece. My teacher urged us to read here.


letstalkabouteduc profile image

letstalkabouteduc 15 months ago from Bend, OR

Great reminders for us all that listening takes effort and focus. I had a terrible misunderstanding at work last year because my boss had heard me but hadn't listened to me. She hadn't picked up on how upset I was and how I was ready to quit. It means so much to me when someone stops what she's doing and gives me 100 percent of her attention. That's so rare these days unless you're paying a therapist!


aesta1 profile image

aesta1 15 months ago from Ontario, Canada

You have given us a very comprehensive hub on listening. You have hit the key points.


sahlabi 17 months ago

Very good page.explainations are vert easy to understood because of simple language.

I like it more......


Mikel Isuacilq 23 months ago

Excellent, informative article. Well researched. Thanks.


Charmaine 2 years ago

Wow .. great job. Was interesting to read and watch videos. Very helpful.


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Hi Uav, thank you. I'm pleased that you found this useful!


Uav 3 years ago

good information sharing i hope you more new information serve and write the hub


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Hi DFW TEEN VOICE, thank you for reading. I am glad that you found this interesting. Have a good weekend!


DFW TEEN VOICE profile image

DFW TEEN VOICE 3 years ago from Richardson, Texas

You took your time and got your point a cross! Enjoyed reading!Success!


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

@Cantyouhearmescream, you're funny :D


Cantuhearmescream profile image

Cantuhearmescream 3 years ago from New York

Shucks, ran out of ink! Just kidding. :-)

You have a good week too!


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Hi Cantyouhearmescream, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts and experience. I totally agree with you and understand how upsetting it is when we take the time to talk something really important and it gets ignored. Thank you so much for the votes!

P.S: You can print this and hang, but it is a pretty long one though :-)

Take care and have a good week!


Cantuhearmescream profile image

Cantuhearmescream 3 years ago from New York

livingsta,

Can I print this out and hang it on my refrigerator? Gosh, I am always begging the question "Are you listening to me"? You know what response I get? "I don't have to be looking at you to be listening to you"! Yes, yes actually you do. It's funny how I can have a 20 minute conversation about something that in a few days will warrant a "I didn't know anything about it." Funny, because I had a 20 minute conversation about it. The thing is, who wants to waste their breath talking if no one is listening?

What you said about music I found true as well. I'll have heard a song dozens of times and maybe even sang along with the chorus. Then one day, maybe by myself in the car... I'll start crying over the song because I actually "listened" to it for the first time. It's amazing.

Great hub; voted up and awesome!


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Hi Paul, thank you so much for reading and sharing your experience and ideas. Yes, active listening is very important both in personal and professional context. I do understand what you say. When you do not get to see the person, you cannot observe their body language and interpretation in these situations are done best with lots of experience and practice. Thank you for the votes and share. Have a great week ahead!


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

livingsta,

This is a very interesting and useful hub. You certainly have covered well the differences between hearing and listening, and what it takes to be a good listener. When I was younger I used to transcribe and translate foreign language recorded telephone conversations. Active listening was very important here and I didn't have the benefit of observing body language. One of the things that helped me with this listening was knowing something about the people who were talking and their subjects of conversation. If you have this knowledge, it is much easier to predict what people are going to say. Voted up and sharing with followers.


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Hi Pstraubie, Thank you so much. I am glad you liked it. Thank you for your appreciation, votes and share. Have a great weekend. Sending Angels your way :-)


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 3 years ago from sunny Florida

You are so right---hearing what someone is saying is quite different and that difference can make the difference in understanding. I used to tell my students when I was teaching to be active listeners and we practiced what that meant.

Thank you for sharing this....much valuable information here. Voted up

and shared.

Sending Angels your way this morning :) ps


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Hello L.L.Woodard, you are right. People have lost this even in their personal lives, which is so sad. Thank you for your appreciation, vote and share. Have a good day!


L.L. Woodard profile image

L.L. Woodard 3 years ago from Oklahoma City

A good listener is difficult to find, as you've pointed out. Listening is both a skill and an art; if it's something you can master you've increased your worth ten-fold.

Great hub; voted up and Shared.


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

You're right Au Fait. Sometimes listening alone could have sorted out so many issues. Thank you for reading and writing your thoughts. Thank you for the votes too. You have a good rest of the week :-)


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas

You are so right in that listening is the more important activity and so few people take the time to do it. As the world becomes more hectic, people listen even less, preoccupied with their own issues and problems, yet so many problems are created by not listening, and so many problems could be avoided or resolved just by listening. A great message and I hope everyone will read this hub and take it to heart. Voted up!


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Thank you Billybuc, yes, so true. I see not many people around who really care to listen. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

I love the message here. It seems to me that listening is a lost art in the world today. It takes so little effort and yet so few do it. I hope this is read by many.


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Thank you Teaches12345. Yes there is a huge difference. I could relate to so many instances while writing this hub. Thank you for reading and voting. Have a good rest of the weekend :-)


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

I voted this one up and useful. I know that I can use this when teaching my next speech class. There is such a big difference between listening and hearing.


Kenneth Avery 3 years ago

Dear Friend, Livingsta . . .same for you. Take care also and be safe.


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Hi Dear Kenneth,

You make me smile. Thank you and take care. :)

Blessings


Kenneth Avery 3 years ago

Dear Livingsta,

You are welcome, my DEAR friend. Anytime. When you are called away to help someone in need, do not get tangled in your lariat. :)


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

@Kenneth, thank you :-)


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

@ Livingsta,

8:48 p.m., cdst,

I will. You too, Wonder Woman . . .oops, sorry.


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Dear Kenneth,

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts. Oh please do not apologise. I do understand and I am so happy that you took time out of all that's going on and sat down to read my hub. You know this makes me even more happy.

Thank you for the votes and for your wonderful friendship.

Take care. :-)


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

3:47 p.m., cdst

February 4

Dear Livingsta,

Amazing hub--text, grahics, lay-out and message, all EXCELLENT! Voted up and all across. I loved this.

I sincerely apologize for taking so long in getting by here. I have been sicker than usual, and well, that's why. I am so sorry.

Keep up this great writing and yes, at times, even me, "Superman," has to have his Super Hearing tweaked at the Fortess of Solitude, my secret hang-out in Antarctica, where I go to be alone.

Thanks, Livingsta, for your talent, friendship and following.

Keep it up. :)


rvsrinivasan profile image

rvsrinivasan 3 years ago

Thank you Ivan. Listening is an art. We need to learn.


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Thank you Vinaya. Glad it was useful in some way. Have a great week ahead!


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal

As a non-native speaker, English words confuse me all the time. Though I had some idea, I did not know the difference in details. Thanks for sharing.


livingsta profile image

livingsta 3 years ago from United Kingdom Author

Thank you Ivan, glad it was useful!


Ivan Ivanov profile image

Ivan Ivanov 3 years ago from Plovdiv

Really detailed hub. I learned a lot! :)

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