The fascinating neurological differences between listening and hearing, how our bodies automatically filter the surprising or important from the background, and what our modern digital age may mean for our listening abilities. Fascinating stuff from the NY Times:
This is because hearing has evolved as our alarm system — it operates out of line of sight and works even while you are asleep. And because there is no place in the universe that is totally silent, your auditory system has evolved a complex and automatic “volume control,” fine-tuned by development and experience, to keep most sounds off your cognitive radar unless they might be of use as a signal that something dangerous or wonderful is somewhere within the kilometer or so that your ears can detect.
This is where attention kicks in.
Take a moment and listen to your surroundings. Coworkers talking, machines whirring, air conditioning humming, printer printing, dogs barking … you can voluntarily pick out any number of sounds when you focus on that input.
The real mindbender is that your brain is always listening to those noises, but it doesn’t trigger you to consciously hear unless it is startling or out of the ordinary. Chew on that for a while … the idea that we are always listening but rarely hearing is pretty freakin’ cool.