Difference Between Hearing and Listening


Key Difference

The key difference between hearing and listening is that the hearing is simply a subconscious activity of perceiving sound by the ear while listening is a proper way of receiving sound by full attention and carefully understanding it.

Hearing vs. Listening

Hearing and listening are two activities related to the use of ear. These two terms may seem to mean the same, but there exists a fine line of difference between them. We are surrounded by a number of sounds most of the time. The hearing is just a sense of receiving these sound waves and noise etc. Whereas Listening is a proper way of receiving sound carefully and understanding it. Hearing is a subconscious act while listening takes place consciously. The mind is not involved during the hearing while listening involves the activity of mind too.


Comparison Chart

The hearing is simply a way of perceiving sound waves or noise etc.Listening is an act of properly analyzing and understanding the sound.
Mental Activity
Hearing does not involve any mental activity.Listening involves mental activity.
It is an ability.It is a skill.
It occurs at a subconscious level.It occurs at a conscious level.
It is a physiological act.It is a psychological act.
Hearing does not require concentration.Listening requires concentration.
Use of Sense
It uses only one sense.It uses more than one senses.
The hearing is primary and continues.Listening is secondary and temporary.
We cannot control the sounds that we hear and even not aware of them.We listen to get information or to receive knowledge.

What is Hearing?

The hearing is an automatic and accidental brain response of sounds that requires no effort. It is actually a natural trait to receive sounds that are always present around us. The hearing is an involuntary activity and does not require any concentration. We hear noise or many other sounds without considering them. So, it is an unconscious act. We hear different sounds because it is a physiological act. It is not about getting any information etc. Human has the capability to hear a sound between 20 to 20000 Hertz. We cannot hear above and below this level.

What is Listening?

Listening is a skill to carefully perceive the sound waves and understand them by transforming them into a meaningful message. So, it occurs at a conscious level and involves mental activity. It requires full attention because the listener has to notice both verbal and nonverbal signs of the speaker, i.e. pitch of the voice, tone and body language, etc. It is used to get knowledge, information or to learn about something.

Key Differences

  1. An ability of a person to receive sound waves is called hearing while a skill to understand the sound waves is known as hearing.
  2. The hearing is done subconsciously while hearing involves consciousness.
  3. The hearing is a physiological act while listening is a psychological act.
  4. The hearing is a natural ability or an inborn trait while listening is a learned skill.
  5. The hearing is a continues act, but listening is a temporary activity because we cannot pay attention to something or someone for a long
  6. Hearing does not involve brain activity whereas listening requires brain activity.
  7. The hearing is an involuntary act and does not provide any information while listening is a voluntary act and provide information or knowledge about something.

Comparison Video

YouTube video


From the above discussion, it is concluded that hearing is an involuntary ability to receive sound subconsciously while the hearing is a voluntary skill to understand the sound waves and transfer them into proper meaningful information.

Janet White

Janet White is a writer and blogger for Difference Wiki since 2015. She has a master's degree in science and medical journalism from Boston University. Apart from work, she enjoys exercising, reading, and spending time with her friends and family. Connect with her on Twitter @Janet__White