We may hear with our ears, but we listen with our brains. Our ears hear sounds, but it is our brains that interpret that sound to make it understandable to us. The good news is that with just a little effort you can train your brain in active listening to develop your communication skills.
Communicating Effectively is Key
In order to effectively communicate, we must have good listening skills. Hearing devices and audiology technology are great, but all they can do is extend your hearing capabilities; they can never improve your listening skills.
In order to listen and communicate, our brains must be trained to effectively interpret the sounds to which we are exposed. Hearing issues can cause listening problems because of the brain’s inability to receive all relevant sound and interpret it accordingly. The good news is that training your brain to actively listen and hear will encourage plasticity and bring about better communication abilities.
Listening and Hearing are Not the Same!
While hearing is just taking sound in and realizing it is there, listening requires understanding and interpretation. If you hear an unrecognizable noise, such as a loud crash or a whisper, you turn your head to find out what it is and from where it is coming. This only takes hearing ability, and is known as signal-based knowledge or processing. To listen, you must hear as well as understand.
When you listen, you hear sounds and you understand the message that is being conveyed. When there is an issue that disrupts hearing, such as hearing loss or an issue with the ear, this can have an effect on listening, but it doesn’t have to cripple you.
Strategies that Work
The older we become, the more we can tell the difference between hearing and listening. Sometimes an older person can hear what is being said but has a difficult time understanding the words or the message. Listening skills can be improved with training and the right tools, and training will help you to build your mind and stretch your brain. This will help you to hear and listen more effectively.
Before you begin, there are several things to keep in mind:
- Technology can be very helpful
- Closed-captioned or subtitled movies help to train your brain to listen
- Teach those around you to speak more clearly when they speak to you
- Realistically understand what a hearing device can help you achieve
- Use communication strategies with your friends and family.
When there is hearing loss, hearing devices and hearing aids can be necessary and help a great deal with getting the sound to your brain.. With the right technologies and therapies, you can prevent your listening skills from deteriorating over time. Auditory and cognitive training can also be very helpful to engage the brain and strengthen plasticity that will lead to improved listening abilities.
Some ways you can help train your brain to actively listen are to read along with an audiobook, watch TV with closed-captions and without them (and test your comprehension), and read along with someone else as they read a newspaper aloud. To add a greater challenge, do these exercises with background noise to train your brain to focus in on the sounds you want to hear.
The first step to improving your listening skills is to recognize the issue. Come in today for a hearing screening and formulate a strategy to train your brain to listen actively and effectively.