Hearing vs Listening: Difference and Comparison

The ear acts as a medium to absorb sound waves and pass them to the brain to perceive and decipher them. Without the ear, an individual cannot hear any sounds.

Only when we can hear will it help us communicate back properly? Hence, the ear plays a vital role in communicating with the outside world.

And hearing is one of the most crucial senses which we possess. There are two different concepts involved when it comes to the activity of perceiving these sound waves.

One is hearing, and the other one is listening. Hearing is the inherent ability of the individual to distinguish a sound.

It is all about the inherent potential of the individual to recognize the sound. It may not be correct to say that the individual has understood the information conveyed in the context of hearing alone.

Key Takeaways

  1. Hearing refers to the physical process of perceiving sound, while listening refers to paying attention and processing what is being said.
  2. Hearing can be passive while listening requires active engagement and comprehension.
  3. Hearing is an innate ability while listening is a learned skill that requires practice and focus.

Hearing vs Listening

Hearing is a passive process that occurs automatically when sound waves reach the ears and is a physiological function that enables us to detect sounds in our environment. Listening is an active and conscious process that involves paying attention to what we hear and interpreting its meaning.

Hearing vs Listening

Listening requires our focus and attention to understand the things which we hear. An individual puts no effort into hearing as it is an involuntary process, but it requires effort to listen as this is a voluntary process done by the individual.

The brain deciphers and understands the received sound waves and takes an appropriate decision.

Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonHearingListening
DefinitionIt refers to the natural ability of an individual to receive and perceive pressure waves (sound) with the help of the ears.It refers to the conscious process done by the individual on receiving the sound by paying attention and understanding it.
ProcessInvoluntary process (passive).Voluntary process (active).
CharacteristicsIt is an inherent ability.It is a skill to be learnt which comes by practice.
Paying attentionIt is not necessary to pay attention as hearing happens naturally.It is essential to pay attention as the individual tries to understand and act on what is being heard.
Occurs atIt happens in the subconscious state.It occurs in the conscious state.
NaturePhysiological state.Psychological state.

What is Hearing?

Hearing is the natural ability of an individual to perceive and receive sound with the help of the ear. It remains a natural process unless an individual is affected by hearing impairment issues.

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Hearing is one of the five senses which is important for any individual. Hearing is not a forced process. It occurs continuously without the intervention of the individual.

It happens on its own. Thus, hearing can be stated as an involuntary process.

The individual puts in no effort to activate or reach the state of hearing. All it requires is our sense organ, i.e. ear, to receive the sound waves.

We hear different sounds and pressure waves in our daily life. But not all the sound waves are deciphered and recognised by our brain.

Human beings can hear sound waves of a particular frequency only. The audible range lies between twenty and twenty thousand hertz (hertz is the unit of frequency).

The frequency below twenty is called infrasonic, and above twenty thousand hertz belongs to the ultrasonic range. Neither ultrasonic nor infrasonic remains audible to the human ear.


What is Listening?

Hearing acts as the gateway for listening. Listening is the process in which sound waves are recognised and deciphered by the brain.

This happens only when we pay attention to the sound waves we receive. Therefore, listening turns out to be a voluntary process.

We need to be consciously aware of it to interpret the sound waves. Listening is not a continuous process.

It requires attention and concentration on what we hear. Since our mind tends to get distracted easily by small things, listening can be acquired only through constant practice.

It is a skill that can be learnt and strengthened as we continue working on it. Hence, listening can be termed a voluntary process by the individual.

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There are two types of listening. One is active listening, and the other one is passive listening.

As the name suggests, active listening involves the individual’s active participation. The active listener not only listens but also contributes to the conversation by participating in discussions, asking questions etc.

Whereas the passive listener does not involve in any contribution to the conversation.


Main Differences Between Hearing and Listening

  1. Hearing is a primary process which gets carried out without any intervention by the individual. But listening takes place only when the individual puts his or her effort into paying attention to the received sound waves.
  2. The hearing may or may not play a vital role in developing a relationship. While listening is deemed to be one of the important factors for a healthy relationship and communication.
  3. The hearing occurs throughout the day as the individual requires no action to sustain or continue the process. Listening is temporary since a lot of effort is required to stay without getting distracted.
  4. Hearing is an inborn trait, whereas listening is a skill which can be mastered only through continuous effort.
  5. Hearing requires only one sense, whereas listening requires the action of one more sense to understand the conversation or what the speaker says.
  6. Hearing is a physiological process which takes place with the help of the ear. Listening is a psychological process, meaning it takes place only when the individual is conscious of the activity.
Difference Between Hearing and Listening
  1. https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/hearing-vs-listening/

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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18 thoughts on “Hearing vs Listening: Difference and Comparison”

  1. This is a thought-provoking article. It highlights the significance of active listening as a learned skill rather than just a natural ability.

  2. The article presents a comprehensive overview of hearing and listening, shedding light on the differences and significance of each process.

    • The article’s explanation of the process of listening was engaging and informative. It provides a new perspective on the subject.

  3. This article has certainly increased my awareness of the importance of active listening. The explanation given is effective in conveying the message.

  4. The article effectively conveyed the psychological and physiological differences between hearing and listening. Informative and well-structured.

    • This article provides valuable insights into the nature of hearing and listening and how they influence our interactions.

    • I found the comparison between hearing and listening to be illuminating. It’s something that’s taken for granted.

  5. The comparison table is very helpful in distinguishing the characteristics of hearing and listening. It provides a clear understanding of the two processes.

  6. This is a very interesting and informative explanation about the difference between hearing and listening. It’s essential to understand the distinction between the two for effective communication.

  7. The distinction between hearing and listening, especially in the context of active and passive processes, has been effectively explained in this article.

    • I particularly found the comparison table to be valuable in illustrating the differences between hearing and listening.


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