Learning to Listen: Neurological Evidence

Neurological evidence indicates we not only learn to listen, but actually tune our inner ear response based on neural feedback from the brain. We literally are able to actively tune our own hearing.  

When we listen for a flute for example, this is more than a conscious decision to focus on the flute. This creates neural impulses that actively tune ear cells to better hear the flute.  

This whole video is fascinating, but I want to get you hooked right away so check this out:  

“Selectively changing what we’re listening to in response to the content. Literally reaching out to listen for things.

Here’s another good one. Everyone can hear subtle details about five times as good as predicted by modeling. Some of us however can hear 50 times as good. The difference? Years spent learning to listen closely! https://youtu.be/SuSGN8yVrcU?t=1956

Learning to play music really does help improve your listening.  

This video is chock full of neurphysiological evidence that by studying, learning and practice you can develop the listening skills to hear things you literally could not hear before. Our hearing evolved millennia before we invented music. We are only just now beginning to scratch at the potential evolution has bestowed on us.


Learning to play music really does help improve your listening.

Absolutely agree, and have written about this previously in a couple
Listening threads.

These steps have helped me:

1) Hearing live music. As an extension, being trained to play in an ensemble. Are either required? As @whart has written multiple times...no, but the skills can be applied to listening to a home audio system.

2) Listening to a familiar recording across multiple systems, sometimes with the guidance of the system’s owners to be made aware of elements/aspects in a system’s sound. I hate hearing the same recordings over and over, but the fact is the process is extremely helpful when learning to listen to a system, then later when evaluating changes to a system...or evaluating an unfamiliar system.

3) Related to above - listening to tracks on test LPs or CDs: Stereophile, XLO,etc. Why is this helpful in learning how to listen? Each recording on a test disc is provided because it offers an example (or examples) of a particular quality: human voice, piano, venue cues, image depth/width. Liner notes usually explain what to listen for in each. Very, very helpful in the process of learning how to listen.

4) Someone to guide (or teach) during a listening session, preferably in one’s own system so the sound characteristics are familiar. I had a manufacturer once come to my home to demonstrate a component. Toward the end of the demo, he swapped in some footers he liked to use. We also compared to footers I owned. He offered some observations that were quite helpful, and provided a lesson in listening.

Number 4 is important. In my life, when I didn’t understand something, or when I didn’t perceive something someone else perceived, it was always helpful for that person to explain in detail what they were perceiving, and guide me to it. Guide me toward how to do it. When a breakthrough occurred, it was a very exciting moment.


Added post bonus! Intro to an Ear Training Course. Norman Varney is a trained musician.

Free Ear Training Course
Great posts guys. This is what I love about AudioGon. Wonderful stuff. #2 and #4 have been a big part of my listening journey.  I still have more to learn and enjoy the process. 
It was listening to the XLO Test CD track Poor Boy that triggered my awareness, of what I was hearing from some of the better CD players and amps. They were less etched and grainy than mine, but it took playing this all analog recording to make the connection.