Have you ever noticed that we have two verbs used for perceiving sound, listen and hear?
If you think about it, hear is a verb used to describe a passive action. To hear something all you have to do is be in a place where you ears can pick up the sound, but listen describes an active action. To listen you have to focus and pay attention to what you hear. The dictionary defines listen as "to make a conscious effort to hear."
I think most people use this words fairly interchangeably, but don't really think about the difference between these two words. For example, when you're plugged into your iPod or have the radio on in the car are you listening to music or are you hearing music? I think this is the reason there's so many accidents with cell phones. When you have the radio on in the car you're hearing music, but your focus is on driving the car. When you on the phone you tend to do more listening rather than hearing therefore your focus is more on the phone than on driving. There's also the problem of speaking which tends to take away even more focus from driving.
In today's fast paced world I think many people don't take the time to actually listen. This is a big problem with interpersonal communication. Too many people have conversations where they just hear the other person speak and don't take the time to listen to what the other person is saying. How many times have we heard a child say to their parent, "alright already, I heard you." But the real question is did they listen?
I think if we spent more time actually listening to each other instead of just hearing each other there would be a lot less conflict and disagreements. I know I'm going to try to make more of an effort to listen, how about you?
On a similar topic, have you ever noticed all the verbs we have for making sounds? Talk and speak, yell and shout, sing and chant. Why do we have so many works for making sound but so few for perceiving sound? I'll save these ponderings for another time.