With so many modern devices distracting us, it's easy to tune out. Here are three things you can do to practice good listening skills.
woman talking to a friend
Credit: Getty / asiseeit

In case you haven't heard, evidence is mounting that suggests ear health is on the decline. According to Dr. Darius Kohan, MD, a clinical associate professor of otolaryngology at New York University's Langone School of Medicine, more than one in three adults will experience a perceptible hearing deficiency by age 65. But what's even more concerning is that 25 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have already experienced some form of noise damage. Why? It has to do with modern technology and all of the gadgets we're using and listening to. Since mobile technology can distract both your visual and auditory senses, it's becoming easier to innocuously damage hearing by listening to music at super loud volumes.

But this trend is also affecting something that Frank Lin, MD, PhD, calls "cognitive load," which is the brain's ability to process information, a function that can be significantly impacted by sounds on the too-low end of the spectrum. The thinking, according to Lin, is that, "As your brain devotes more and more energy to making sense of the muffled signals it's receiving, it becomes less effective at processing other things, like learning and memory." Since we are, more often than not, overloading our senses (and our brain), it stands to reason, that our listening skills could be impacted as well.

While experts are further researching new and improved methods for preventing hearing loss, they shared a few things you can do each day to become a better listener overall.

Observe Three Minutes of Silence Every Day

Julian Treasure, a London-based musician-turned-sound-consultant, recommends taking three minutes out of your day to rest your ears. This is how you can cut through the noise, and train yourself to recognize and focus on sounds that really matter.

Lend Your Right Ear

A study published in 2017 by researchers at Alabama's Auburn University found that, even in the most challenging environments, the right ear is better than the left at processing language. This is because it has a direct connection to the left brain's speech-recognition centers, says audiologist and the study's lead researcher Aurora Weaver, Ph.D.

Go Through the Motions

Experts have found that acting like a good listener can actually make you a better one naturally. Set your phone aside, maintain eye contact with your friend, and ask engaging questions throughout the conversation.


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