Are You Losing Your Listening?


“We are losing our listening.”

So says sound expert Julian Treasure in a 2011 TED talk. I agree. Absolutely!

Today most people are handicapped, when it comes to listening. We are unable to tune in to connect with other people and the world around us. As a result we are hard of hearing  hard of listening.

Our listening is impaired because we are accustomed to using our ears instead of our minds. Let me explain.

Hearing and Listening

Hearing is to the ears, listening is to the mind. We hear with our ears, and listen with our minds. To listen is to make an effort to understand what you hear. For instance, when I turn on the ignition of my car, on the basis of the sound of the engine running, I will drive off without knowing if the engine is sounding right or wrong. But listening to the sound can help me know when something is wrong.

Here’s another analogy I heard some years ago. When music is turned on, hearing tells you a song is playing, listening can tell you what the song is saying, the genre of the song, and who is singing.

Julian Treasure claims we are losing our listening because “we retain just 25% of what we hear.” This means information to and from us is hardly understood. It also means  we are unable to make meaning of all that is happening around us. Is it any wonder why our world is more chaotic than it has ever been?

You may say not everything we hear is worth listening to, but how do we figure out what to discard or keep without making an effort to understand first? We tune out too much for our own good.

“We tune out too much for our own good.”

Why Are We Losing our Listening?

I think it is because we have chosen to adopt individualistic and self-centered lifestyles. Advancement in communication technology has helped us to create solo soundscapes. Armed with a smartphone and an earpiece we can tune out everyone and everything around us.

I remember over three months ago, in July,  when the augmented reality game, Pokémon Go was released. Safety concerns were raised when players shared incidents of been robbed, mugged, stepping in front of oncoming vehicles etc. because they were out of touch with their environment while playing the game.

Also, when we listen, it is often only for our benefit. ‘What’s  in it for me’ (WIIFM) is the question we always ask ourselves, consciously or unconsciously. We tune out whatever is not to our benefit. It doesn’t matter to us if it will benefit others.

As a result we are limited to only what we know or experience, which is minuscule in comparison with the wealth of knowledge and experience we can glean from listening to others. We listen only for our benefit to our detriment. The self-delusion of self-sufficiency is killing us.

“We listen only for our benefit to our detriment.”

Listening is a choice

If we must make meaning of life and our experiences, we must choose to listen. Listening is intentional. Because it does not come naturally, you and I must make a conscious effort to understand people and events, in relation to us, to others, and our environment.

We must choose NOT to tune out people and situations around us. It is not easy, but it is possible. It is beneficial, so it is worthwhile.

I have heard it said before that we’ve got two ears and one mouth so that we can listen more and talk less. It makes sense.

The Bible tells us “My dear friends, you should be quick to listen and slow to speak…” (James 1:19, Contemporary English version)

“Every human being needs to listen consciously to live fully.”
– Julian Treasure

Be wise. Always make an effort to understand. Always choose to listen.

Are we losing our listening? What do you think? Please share.


2 thoughts on “Are You Losing Your Listening?

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