Hearing is a sense. Listening is a skill. Hearing is passive – it takes no effort to hear sound. Hearing occurs 24/7 and cannot be turned “off”. Listening is active – it requires attention and is a brain skill. Brain (or cognitive) abilities that are important for good listening skills are memory, processing speed and attention skills.
Listening makes sense out of the sounds you hear. We don’t simply want louder sounds, but meaning from the sounds. If the quality of sound is degraded from even a mild hearing loss, then the brain becomes inefficient in how it does the listening – making a heavier “load” on the brain, increasing listening effort and fatigue.
Listeners who maintain large working memories are faster at processing information that is heard. Also important to listening: attention skills to focus or ignore distracting signals. When we “multi-task” – there are fewer brain resources used to listen. Listening skills support cognitive skills and can be improved with training. Keep both hearing and listening sharp!