Health and wellness · Language · observations

Differentiation: Listening v Hearing


There is a difference between listening and hearing.


I can hear the hummingbirds clicking, someone using electrical equipment – a circular saw – the scree deafening. I hear that damn ice cream truck that must stop right in front of my house every time hailed by the consumers across the street, including the one that stops every night at 10 pm.


I listen to the radio, particularly KPFK, to Amy Goodman, Sonali Kolhatkar, my friends on the phone, if they don’t go on too long.


But, I hear the seemingly never ending crying of the infant living in the House of Violence. I hear the drone, the underlying humming buzz, like a hornet’s nest warming up for a major swarm, that emanates from that house on a near daily basis. I hear these things and must force myself not to slip into listening, else I might begin to interpret the child’s cries as one of serious distress, that buzzing as the warm-up for a violent outburst.


Yes, there is a distinct difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is passive. Listening is active. Both can be informative.

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