Why Hearing is Different From Listening

Today we want to talk about why hearing is different from listening.

We are talking about that this week in our Kindermusik Level 2 classes for toddlers.

It's a wonderful subject to talk about because most of us can hear, but listening is actually a learned behavior.

What do I mean by that?

Active listening is really more than hearing.

It engages the cognitive part of the brain, and it requires a response.

For example, you're listening to a dog bark.

You might say to your child, “Do you think that's a big dog or a little dog?”

Your child is going to think about it, analyze it because of the sound and think, oh, that sounds like a big dog, they're going to respond to you.

Active or what we call focus listening means that we are intentionally listening to sound, or maybe to music, or voices, and we're processing it, and we're analyzing it, and we're allowing our brains to make categories for them.

So they're categorizing it in their little brain.

“That sounds like a big dog.”

“That sounds like a little dog.”

“That siren is loud.”

“That water coming out of the hose is quiet.”

“It sounds smooth.”

“The wagon going over bumps in the sidewalk sounds bumpy.”

Think about how your child is taking in, receiving all of these sounds and their brain is working very fast to categorize them.

Here at thrive, we work on focused listening, active listening, intentional listening.

How many of you have a spouse or partner at home or maybe teenagers that have what I call, selective hearing loss?

I remember those days with my kids when they were teenagers.

They're acting like they don't hear you.

What happens is they start to tune you out.

So we want to be very selective about the messaging and the learning that we give our children

Sometimes hearing something different lights up the brain.

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Did you know there's a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic and he studies the efforts that music has on the body and the brain?

One of his studies was truly fascinating.

They used an MRI machine.

It found more activity in the brains of adults, when they were listening to music or language from different cultures of their own.

Why? Because now, the brain is hearing new patterns and it's got to try to organize it.

So when your child is hearing something new, something different, step back, be quiet, let them hear it, give them time, let them analyze it and sort it, then you can ask them questions.

“What instrument do you think that was?”

“Why did that sound different?”

“Was it a ringing sound?”

“Did it sound like drums?”

“Was it short and separated sound?”

“Was it smooth and connected sounds like that?”

Ask them some investigative questions, but do it slowly, don't push them, give them time.

Remember, their brain receives new information and figures things out 12 times longer than it takes yours to do it.

So keep that in mind.

When reading with your child, not to your child, but with your child.

No matter what age, I don't care if they're babies, or teens, or you're reading along with the family, add some storytelling sounds to make it more of an active listening time.

Every time that you read the story like this, you're practicing listening, you're practicing attention skills, focused listening, intentional listening skills.

Do you know what this does?

It actually helps your child be successful in school as well as in life.

We need to know how to focus in on truly listening to our friends, listening to what our teacher says, listening to what our parents say, so that we know if it's important or not.

They might have that selective hearing loss.

I have a few tips for that too.

Another great thing you can do, have some quiet time at home. We do this in our Kindermusik classes every single day. Turn down the lights, that means you're putting the visual behind you. Bring out the auditory, you are going to intentionally listen.

Start at the top of your child's ear and rub all the way down to the ear lobe on both sides. This is going to activate the brain for intentionally listening. Turn the lights down, turn on the music, just lie down, make eye contact, hold their hand, touch their back, rock, now you've got an I love you ritual, a beautiful connection ritual.

Now you're intentionally listening to the music.

When it's over you can ask them questions.

“Did that make you feel happy?”

“Did it make you feel sad?”

“What kind of instruments do you think you heard?”

“Did you hear a piano?”

“Did you hear strings?”

“Did you hear drums?”

“Did it sound like rain?”

“Did it sounds like a storm?”

Ask them so many questions that are investigative about what they're hearing.

In Kindermusik we talk about our primary learning styles.

There are lots of learning styles out there.

Some people believe there's a dozen.

Some people believe there's up to 18.

We all have our innate ways of learning.

To make it easier for you to understand, is we break it down into three learning styles in Kindermusik:

  1. Kinesthetic,

    they like to touch feel a move.

  2. Visual,

    they like to watch, see, analyze it, figure it out.

  3. Auditory,

    they want to hear it.

Many children are combinations and our hope is that through Kindermusik and getting comfortable with multi sensory learning, that they start to see other parts of their brain for learning as much as their primary source.

Your child may perceive the world through sound, they may just want to hear everything. They may listen for new information rather than want to see it.

Sometimes they may appear bored if the information they're hearing is familiar.

“Yeah, I know that one already.”

They might respond to the queue, “are you listening?”

“Do you hear that?”

Some children with primary auditory skills have very strong language and their communication is very good with good vocabulary.

Our daughter talked before she walked.

Sometimes auditory kids can be easily distracted, why?

Because they're hearing things all over the place.

Sometimes they like to talk, they may interrupt you.

They love active listening.

We can tell in class, the children that are just queued in when we do these active listening exercises in class.

They may hide their eyes or look away.

With my daugher, who is very much an auditory learner, I took her to story time every week at the Shaker Heights library, and she hid her eyes and buried her face in my chest and I just let her be.

And she sat there for the whole half hours storytime, she went up to the librararian afterwards, whose name was also Kathy and said, "Thanks, Kathy. See you next week."

And I'm telling you, she remembered everything about those books because she wanted to take in the information by hearing and she is very attuned to sounds.

I can tell you that driving in the car when she was a young teenager, we had some pop station on and there was a song on, and she turned it to a different station and the same song was on and she said, "Mom, do you hear? They're playing it slightly slower because the pitch is lower? I can hear that."

I was amazed. Wow.

And she has a beautiful ear for pitches today.

Your child may choose to listen before participating or rather than participating, it's okay.

You can just let them be and let them learn the way they want to learn best.

They may follow verbal directions very, very well.

Some children need visual directions, they need printouts.

Other children will follow clear slow verbal directions.

And your child, if they're an auditory learner primarily, they may remember details from verbal explanations.

Here's another perfect example. If you told my daughter in preschool, “Sarah, put your coat on, zip it up, then put your boots on and gloves.” She would do it.

Our son, who is a visual learner, stood there and stared into blank space. The teacher figured out because he was an early reader. She wrote the instructions down on a sheet of paper and handed it to him, and he followed them.

So, today we're talking about auditory learners, but I want to show you that there is a difference between primary learning styles.

So, for this week, listen to the sounds today, talk about them.

“What do you hear?”

“What does it sound like?”

“Do the sounds make you feel a certain way?”

Bravo to our auditory learners today, that's who we are honoring and recognizing, and my hope is that you will give them the space to learn in the way they learn best.

You may be a visual learner and not relate to an auditory learner. You've got to use your eyes and notice, that if they have auditory characteristics, step back, let it happen, let them soak it in, It takes longer than it takes you.