Whether you’re making a home movie or conducting an interview, background noise can be annoying. It’s common to find unwanted sounds like breathing, random voices, ambient noise, and hums and buzzes caused by mics.
Audiologists are keenly aware that people with hearing loss often experience difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments. Even if the hearing loss is mild, it can make speech unintelligible.
1. Listen with your eyes
Despite the fact that we live in a world of digital distractions, it’s still possible to make genuine contact with our customers, colleagues, friends, and family. But in order to truly engage with them, you have to listen with your eyes as well as your ears.
Dan’s five-year-old daughter may have been quite young, but she made a very important point to him: You can hear the words that someone speaks, but you get much more of the message through their body language and other non-verbal behavior, such as their posture, gestures, and facial expressions. Listening with your eyes means giving them your undivided attention and not constantly checking your phone, looking into the distance, or glancing around the room.
This is especially important in business, where communication skills are critical for building strong relationships and effective teams. Listening with your eyes shows the person that they are important to you and that you value what they have to say. It also shows that you can decipher their body language signals and understand what they’re trying to tell you.
The ability to decipher body language is a skill that can be learned and developed and is a vital component of true empathy. One of the best ways to do this is by practicing your listening skills with music. For example, take a song that you love and try to break it down into individual musical elements (pitch, timbre, texture, melody, harmony, rhythm, etc.). If you can tune into these details, it will help you to more fully engage with music in general and understand how it is intended to be experienced.
At our “Listening with your Eyes” workshop, we help people connect with their colleagues and customers by learning to read the body language signals of those they communicate with and the vocal cues they use to convey their emotions. This is the most powerful and effective way to build a connection. Our workshop has proven to be very beneficial for a wide range of professions that rely on this level of communication, including GPs, care home staff, police officers, and nurses.
2. Listen with your ears
While it’s common to believe that listening occurs in your ears, it involves the entire auditory system. Sound waves enter your outer ear canal, hit your eardrum, and cause it to vibrate, sending signals to your middle ear that get interpreted by your inner ear. Your brain then processes these signals in the auditory cortex.
With an intact auditory system, it’s easy for people with “normal” hearing to follow conversations in background noise. However, as this system weakens from age or injury, the ability to recognize speech in noise can decrease.
One of the main reasons for this is that noise can interfere with the neural connections between your ear and your brain. This can cause you to miss a person’s words when they are talking or to not hear them at all when they’re speaking in a noisy environment. The good news is that you can improve your listening skills through practice.
Listening to music is a great way to develop your active listening skills. By eliminating distractions, you can focus on the compositional structure and nuances of the song or piece. For example, try identifying each instrument in the music or listening for certain vocal tics that are unique to a particular genre of music.
During an active listening session, make sure you use quality headphones that are comfortable to wear. Also, avoid listening to music at high decibel levels – any sound above 80 decibels can cause permanent hearing loss in a matter of hours. Lastly, always keep a pair of earplugs handy, especially when traveling or attending concerts. If you’re a frequent audiophile, consider switching to hi-fi streaming services that offer more detail than standard MP3s.
3. Listen with your heart
The rhythmic symphony of music, a universal language that transcends borders and cultures, is a captivating force of nature. It soothes, uplifts, and unites, evoking emotions that words often fail to capture. And now, research shows that it may also have the power to enhance focus, productivity, and concentration for those needing a little help.
In fact, various studies have found that listening to music and background noise can offer a wide range of benefits, including improved cognitive performance, increased task performance, greater energy levels, and enhanced mood. What’s more, these benefits appear to be quite pronounced for individuals who are struggling with particular challenges, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Of course, not all types of music or background noise will be beneficial. In general, it’s recommended to choose sounds that are consistent and moderate in volume, that don’t contain distinct human speech, and that don’t have a lot of high-pitched frequencies. This type of music and background noise is generally considered more conducive to tasks than songs with lyrics and can be a great way to increase productivity and improve concentration.
In addition to traditional, melodic forms of music, some composers are also using noise as a creative tool. For example, artists like Fennesz and Tim Hecker use sound to fragment, distort, and interrupt the musical signal – creating an abstract and ecstatic intimacy. These works challenge the notion of signal versus noise and push the boundaries of what constitutes a compositional gesture.
Ultimately, the best approach is to experiment. Given the substantial variability in the influence of music and background noise and the fact that you’re generally the one most suited to assess their impact on you, it’s worth trying out different styles until you find what works best for your situational needs and personal preferences. But if the music or background noise starts to negatively affect your performance in any way, it’s always OK to take a break and try again later. After all, the most important thing is listening with your heart and following your intuition.
4. Listen with your soul
If you’re in tune with your soul, you know how to clear space and follow the inner guidance that’s always present. It’s a gift to be able to access this powerful inner wisdom and live the purposeful life you dream of. This task is not easy and requires you to strip away all the conditioning, stories, and illusions.
You have to be able to see through the noise and be brutally honest with yourself. This can be scary at times, but ultimately, it’s the only way to find true happiness, health, and love.
Listening to your soul is a process that’s best done in solitude and in silence. You can create this space by sitting in meditation, journaling with powerful questions, yoga, or anything else that connects you to your energy. The deeper you go within, the easier it is to feel that pulse from within, the unique energetic vibration that is your soul. It’s formless and wordless – it’s a feeling.
When you’re in this space and able to hear the voice of your soul, it feels like a giant searchlight suddenly illuminates what used to terrify you and confuse you. It’s a clarity that doesn’t diminish your humanness – it simply allows you to see the whole picture more clearly.
You may have heard this phrase before: “Follow your heart.” It’s true that listening to your soul will guide you in the direction of what is most important for your well-being. The voice of your soul is non-biased and will give you messages that are aimed towards the long-term future of your existence on this planet. Those messages might not always seem obvious or urgent, but they’re important for you to hear so that you can make choices that are aligned with your Soul’s mission.
To truly engage with music, you must prioritize it in your life. This is not easy, and it’s not for everyone, but if you commit to clearing the space and listening to your soul, you can create an abundant life that will enable you to live your soul purpose in all its glory.