The Difference Between a Listening and Hearing Activity for Children

By Darlene Peer
Playing a game of telephone can improve active listening skills.
Playing a game of telephone can improve active listening skills.

Hearing is a passive process, and, if your child isn't actively focused on what you're saying, it's possible to hear words without actually listening and processing their meaning. That can lead to the frustrating experience of repeating yourself over and over. It's important to determine whether your child has an actual hearing disorder or just needs practice focusing his attention and actively listening.

Physical Difference Between Hearing and Listening

Hearing is a step-by-step process, and, if something goes wrong during one of the steps, it's possible that your child may not be ignoring you by not listening, he may genuinely have a hearing problem. Normally, a sound wave enters the ear and moves into the ear canal. It bumps against the ear drum and creates a vibration which carries to the inner ear, vibrating against the auditory nerves. When these nerves are stimulated, signals are sent to the brain and it processes and interprets the sounds heard. Since the brain doesn't automatically translate the sounds into words, if your child isn't actually paying attention to what is being said (listening), then he hears without understanding.

Activities Centered Around Hearing

Hearing activities test your child's ability to hear any noise at all and noises at different volumes. Start by standing out of sight. When your child is busy doing something else, walk up behind her and shake a maraca or a jar full of beans. If she turns to look, you know she heard you. The second activity is a game. Blindfold her and have her sit in a central room in the house. Move around, activating different noise-making devices, such as turning on the vacuum cleaner, turning on the faucet or flipping on the TV. Ask her to identify the noise. After she does, turn off the noise and move on to the next one.

Activities Centered Around Listening

Listening activities test and improve your child's active listening skills. Start by choosing songs and rhymes that encourage your child to pay close attention to what you're saying. For example, the song "B-I-N-G-O" forces children to listen closely for the pauses so they know when to clap. Ask your child to listen carefully while she sits there with her eyes shut. Use familiar household items to make sounds and then ask her to identify them. For example, run the vacuum cleaner, turn on the TV or run the faucet.

Hearing and Listening Disorders

If you believe that your child may have a problem with her hearing or listening, arrange to visit an audiologist. The audiologist places a soft plug in your child's ear which lets him map the movement of sound in her hears. You child's dilemma may be as simple as having too much ear wax built up in her ears. Hearing loss usually falls into four categories. The first three -- conduction (disorders in the outer or middle ear, like infections or structural problems), sensorineural (disorders in the inner ear or eighth cranial nerve, usually from noise exposure, meningitis or problems at birth) or a combination of the two -- all involve difficulties actually hearing. The fourth type of hearing loss is a central problem with the central auditory nervous system which can involve auditory processing disorders and can't be caught through school programs that screen hearing. These types of disorders are usually tied to what appear to be problems listening, since central auditory disorders impact the processing of information in the brain.

About the Author

Darlene Peer has been writing, editing and proofreading for more than 10 years. Peer has written for magazines and contributed to a number of books. She has worked in various fields, from marketing to business analysis. Peer received her Bachelor of Arts in English from York University.