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Hearing Vs Listening: Key Differences, Importance & Examples

Hearing Vs. Listening Key Differences & Their Importance

There are key differences between hearing vs listening. Most believe that the two terms are virtually the same, but to be a great partner and employee, you should know these differences.

If you understand why listening is as crucial to relationships, if not more crucial, than hearing, you get an immense number of benefits.

In healthy relationships, effective communication skills and active listening skills are both necessary.

By learning the importance of listening, you can improve both of these skill sets at once. If you are used to just passive hearing, transitioning to active listening can be tough.

In this article, we will help you understand the differences between listening and hearing and why knowing the difference is important.

Hearing vs. Listening: Key Differences & Their Meaning

Many psychologists and mental health experts acknowledge the differences between these two terms. Hearing is simply taking noises, and not processing them deeply.

Listening, on the other hand, is genuinely trying to understand the other person’s words instead of just passively hearing noises.


  • Involuntary
  • Relies on inaction
  • Passive
  • Simply hearing sound


  • Voluntary
  • Requires action and work
  • Active, involved
  • Processing sound psychologically

What is Hearing?

Hearing is simply recognizing sound. When you hear something, you do it make internal psychological connections or truly decipher the meaning of the words.

It simply involves gathering sound waves, which is involuntary. You do not need to be focused to hear.

Example: by passing someone in the hallway, you hear them celebrating but do not internalize this. Or, your television is in and you hear your dog roll on the floor.

What is Listening?

To truly listen, you must interpret and understand sound. It requires attention and is a voluntary action. When listening, you are more likely to develop deeper connections to the individual speaking.

You may also have emotional connections as a result. An active listener is someone who has the goal of understanding the average person speaking to them.

Examples: someone notes that the best way to proceed with the project is for you to lead it. You ask them how to perform best and take down notes as they speak.

Or, your spouse notes that they have been having a hard time disciplining the kids. So, you give them your undivided attention and try to help them.

What is The Importance of Hearing?

While hearing may seem as less important than listening, it does serve a few benefits. Both listening and hearing can help benefit your relationships, career, and mental health.

When it comes to hearing, it is crucial when trying to understand our surroundings. In fact, those who lose their hearing, unfortunately, have many negative consequences.

For instance, a lack of hearing can lead to a difficult time making connections with others.

You are also more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, have poor self-esteem, and have anger-related issues if you cannot hear.

However, you can also “hear” in no traditional ways. The use of sign language and paying attention to body language can help relieve some of these negative side effects.

If you are suffering from any of the conditions listed above, a therapist or other mental health professional is your best source of help.

Why is Important To Practice Listening?

Listening offers many incredible benefits. Those who give others thoughtful attention, these individuals are likely to have good reputations at work.

They are generally well-liked by their colleagues and work well in groups. Thus, listening can help you in your career. It can also help you develop relationships, or strengthen the ones you already have.

List of 10 Benefits of Practicing Listening

Additional benefits of listening include:

  1. Increase your confidence and self-worth
  2. Decrease your risk of depression
  3. Better understand your spouse, bosses, and colleagues
  4. Develop empathy and compassion toward others
  5. Become more curious about others, and thus build binds with them
  6. Boost your communication skills
  7. It makes you a better team player (helps you work well in teams)
  8. It helps you de-escalate interpersonal conflict without fighting
  9. Increases the amount of knowledge you have about the world and those you know
  10. It helps you recognize and anticipate issues, thus helping you resolve them efficiently

How Can Listening And Hearing Affect Our Mental Health?

Both hearing and listening can positively impact our mental health. With an imbalance of these, there can also be serious consequences.

If you do not listen or at least hear someone, you can damage your relationship with them. You may get a poor reputation if you do this at work.

Over time, this makes you more likely to become depressed, anxious, want to be isolated, or have a general lack of ambitions.

If you actively listen to others, the exact opposite occurs. Instead of tearing relationships apart, you build them up and strengthen them. You build your communication and teamwork skills.

Those around will likely express gratitude for this at some point. This will boost your confidence, and empathy, and decrease your likelihood of getting mental health conditions.

Those that actively listen can also share memories with others, develop strong conflict-resolution skills, get more knowledge, and develop true, lasting friendships.

A loss of hearing can have similar negative effects as the choice to not listen.

While hearing is just the perception of sound, you still cannot gather information to take the first step to build s relationship without hearing.

Those that cannot hear are more at risk for depression. They are also more likely to be isolated from others.

Adults with hearing loss also experience faster rates of cognitive decline when compared to those with normal hearing.

Tips & Activities for Becoming a Better Listener

There are many benefits that come along with being a good and effective listener.

You’ll become more liked, it boosts your confidence, decreases your risk of depression, allows you to build interpersonal relationships, and so much more.

Here are some active listening tips to boost your listening skills.

Be Curious

Individuals who are good listeners are often quite curious. They want to understand the world and the people around them.

This need for knowledge leads them to actively interpret others’ speech.  Realize that everyone has something to share with you. There is something that they know that you do not.

Through active listening, you can find out more about society and them as an individual. Thus, try adopting a curious mindset, and you may instantly become a better listener.

Ask Questions

When you are Joni listening to someone, you are not truly engaged in the conversation. To become an active listener, start asking questions.

Relevant, open-ended questions will show the speaker that you value their words and are truly invested in their speech.

It proves you have paid attention and that you are thinking about what they have said.

If you have trouble formulating questions, start with one of the following words: who, what, when, where, why, or how.

Use Nonverbal Gestures

Listening is not solely done with the ears. In fact, other body parts can play a crucial role as well. Pay attention to someone else’s body language.

Notice if they twirl their hair, reach to rub their neck, nod their head, or when/if they make eye contact. All of this can help you better understand the person’s thoughts and emotions.

You can use your own nonverbal cues, such as replicating their body language and making eye contact, to show you are paying attention.

Give Advice Only if Required

Many people believe they have an open invitation to give advice to anyone about anything. However, doing so will only make you look overconfident and could make others uncomfortable.

Instead, inky give advice when someone asks you to. Even if you have good intentions, sharing advice when it is not needed could turn out to be unhelpful.

People want to be understood and heard, and sometimes advice is not the best way to validate someone.

5 Inspiration Quotes for Hearing & Listening

Balancing hearing and listening can be tough to do. It is especially difficult to transition from being a passive listener to an active one. To inspire you, try looking at quotes.

Some psychologists, philosophers, and even regular celebrities can share insights into how and why both hearing and listening are important.

Below is a list of 5 such quotes.

  1.  “Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart.” — Tich Nhat Hanh
  2. “I only wish I could find an institute that teaches people how to listen. Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”  — Lee Iacocca
  3. “To learn through listening, practice it naively and actively. Naively means that you listen openly, ready to learn something, as opposed to listening defensively, ready to rebut. Listening actively means you acknowledge what you heard and act accordingly.”  — Betsy Sanders
  4. “Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.”― Roy T. Bennett
  5. “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” — Karl A. Menniger

Bonus: Passive Vs. Active Listening

Within listening, there are two subcategories: active and passive. To be the best listener you can be, you must master active listening.

Active listening is the process of hearing and digging deep into the information being said. It requires attention, effort, motivation, and curiosity.

Those that actively listen first try to understand what is being said. Then, they try to participate in the conversation, such as by asking questions.

They truly care about making connections with the speaker and gathering as much information as they can.

On the other hand, passive listening is quite different. It does not require the same level of attention.

Those that passively listen often seem disengaged and do not emphasize connecting with the speaker. These individuals do not care much about moving the conversation forward.

They may feel as though they know enough about the topic and are not interested in someone else’s opinion. Knowledge gathering or connection formation is not a top priority to them.

Generally speaking, passive listeners have poorer reputations than active listeners and are less likely to form strong bonds.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hearing vs Listening

What does it mean to hear and not listen?

Hearing is simply recognizing sounds. It does not show you are interested in keeping the conversation going or interested in forming bonds with the person talking.

If you are hearing, you are not truly paying attention to the person’s points. You are just passively recognizing their words but not engaging in the conversation.

To actively listen, you must be involved in the conversation and should truly care about the other person’s points.

How is hearing different from listening?

While the terms hearing and listening are usually used interchangeably, there are key differences between them. Listening is the simple recognition of sound.

It is done involuntarily and does not involve empathy, attention, or curiosity. The role of hearing is to simply gather basic information about our surroundings.

For example, hearing can help you recognize that there is police outside your door. Keeping your sense of hearing can decrease your risk of depression and mental decline.

Listening, though, involves actively trying to understand the person talking. Listeners want to gather information and build bonds with the speaker.

What is better, listening or hearing?

Both hearing and listening can benefit your relationships and career. However, listening is undoubtedly better. It allows you to form bonds with others. You get more information out of listening.

Plus, when you listen, you build critical thinking skills, teamwork skills, empathy, and you get a better reputation at work.

When it comes to your partner, by actively listening you can resolve conflicts and better understand them.

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