How hard or easy do you find it to listen? I believe it is harder than we think. More often these days, I realize that I have heard someone talking, appeared to understand what they were saying, but did not actually HEAR them. When contemplating the act of listening, I am automatically reminded of another sensory expression: Are we being seen? In that we are not listening to each other, we are consequently not being seen, and so in many ways, we are becoming invisible.
What do we hear in our everyday soundscape, as we simply go about our busy lives? How do we define intellectually, what comes through our eardrums? Noise pollution? Is that why so many people walk around with earphones?
I thank my iPod’s earphones for allowing me to hear my selection of music or podcasts that drown out the excruciating sounds of the subway brakes. Yet, I still feel awkward standing among groups of people that would probably not hear me fall or yell “Help!” should I need it. For they too are in their own worlds, under the spell of their own soundscape, insulated by their earphones.
More times than not, I enjoy going out without my music player to hear the sound of the day, moment by moment, distinct accents, sirens calling, children laughing and all that a day in the city offers. But I concede, I like it to be on my terms and when/how I want. I am guilty of tuning out my listening of those around me and believe I am not alone. I wonder: are we losing the ability to really hear each other in the process?
Julian Treasure, sound expert and chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises companies, hotels, and urban designers worldwide, defines listening as “making meaning from sound”. I recently came across his TED Talk that inspired me. It made me realize how close we are to losing our ability to listen and how essential it is to hear each other. In it he proposes 5 ways to “re-tune our ears” to re-connect with our conscious listening.
I will give Julian Treasure a second listen. And to the world around me, I will make a conscious choice to hear what is being said and open myself to even the most mundane with fresh ears. Who knew I could have a whole new appreciation for a washing machine?