Listening is not reading


Discussions about whether listening to an audio book is “cheating” suggest that listening is a lesser skill when compared with reading.

I think this is a great shame… because it makes sensitive people jump to the defence of those who listen to audio books and declare that listening and reading are the same.

As someone who is partially deaf, this “the sameness” really irritates me.

The part of my brain that processes sound doesn’t work properly, but it doesn’t affect my reading comprehension. They are, quite simply, different skills.

But I have been shouted down for sharing this opinion… so I’m sharing it on my own blog, where I get to have an opinion without it being deleted by an allegedly overzealous member of Facebook group Admin!

My argument is not that one skill is lesser than the other, but that they are different skills that use different parts of the brain.

Thankfully, you don’t have to take my word for it.

In 2009, four scientists – Buchweitz, Mason, Tomitch and Just – conducted a study using functional MRI scans to look at which parts of the brain are activated during listening and reading activities.

Their study – Brain Activation for Reading and Listening Comprehension (links to NCBI website) – found that “reading comprehension was associated with more left-lateralised activation and with left inferior occipital cortex (including fusiform gyrus) activation” whereas “listening comprehension was associated with extensive bilateral temporal cortex activation and more overall activation of the whole cortex”.

So different. Not the same.

Please note: the study I have linked to is one of many scientific studies that have looked into reading and listening skills. I’ve chosen to quote this one because the findings listed in the abstract use clear language to state physical differences in brain function.

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