You know that you hear with your ears. When something makes a noise, it sends sound waves through the air. The waves hit your eardrum and make it vibrate. Your brain perceives this vibration as sound, and you hear the noise. Hearing is a passive activity. Your ears pick up the sounds around you and then send them to your brain.
Listening is an active process. You must choose to listen. Listening involves gaining meaning from the sounds you are hearing. You need to concentrate in order to listen. People participate in three basic types of listening.
We listen for enjoyment. Some sounds such as laughter and music make us happy. We don't need to pay close attention to each word or sound. The brain understands that the sound is something that makes us feel comfortable. We listen to the radio or television for enjoyment.Often these sounds are used as background noise to make us feel calm as we do other activities. This is the easiest level of listening.
We also listen for information. This is a more complicated level of listening. We must pay careful attention to the words. Our brains must use the words in order to produce some type of action.
For example, let's say you are beginning a new job. You will have to listen to a lot of instructions. Your ears hear the words your boss is speaking. You must concentrate on them. Your brain will remember them in order to take the correct action.
We also use this level of listening when we are in class. We concentrate on the words in order to remember the important details.This is the way we remember new information through our auditory channel.
The third level of listening deals with understanding. As we concentrate deeper on the words, our brain processes this information.We are able to make sense of it. We can relate it to our own experiences. Our brains can connect it to information we already know about the subject.
This is the type of listening we use when we are discussing an important topic. During class discussions, we concentrate on the words being spoken. Our brains process the information. We are then able to form an opinion and make a response. This is the type of listening that leads to new learning.
We can have excellent hearing but poor listening skills. To be a good learner, you must be a good listener. Remember that listening is an active skill. You must concentrate on the sounds in order for the brain to remember and process them. Many people are poor listeners. We tend to concentrate more on what we are going to say than what someone else is telling us.
As Epictetus, a famous Greek philosopher once said, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen more and talk the less."