Reading can be a magical pathway to distant and imagined lands or curious information. Unfortunately, it can also be time-consuming and difficult to fit into our busy schedules. Luckily, you don’t have to read anymore, you can simply listen. Thanks to improved text-to-speech capacities, podcasts, audiobooks, and television, nearly anything that was once only available in print is now available in a digital format. Those digital formats can easily be downloaded and listened to on your own time. No longer are you a slave to a heavy book or e-reader. Of course, some believe this puts you at a natural disadvantage. After all, isn’t reading better for the brain? Don’t we comprehend better when we read rather than listen? Well, yes and no. 

Listening and Reading Are Very Similar

According to some researchers, reading is really just a fancy combination of listening comprehension and word identification. In other words, reading and listening are highly entwined. Does that mean listening is just as effective as reading? In many ways, yes. Studies have shown that students who listened to short stories, rather than reading them to themselves, were capable of summarizing just as well as those who simply read them. Additional studies prove that reading comprehension and memory are the same regardless of whether someone reads a book or listens to an audiobook. In most ways, listening works just as well as physically reading. 

The Advantages of Listening

Ever been called an “active listener?” Well, you’re already at an advantage when it comes to comprehension. Of course, the advantages of listening are numerous and broad. The greatest advantage being that listening allows you to multi-task. You can easily listen to a recorded text on Notevibes while doing the dishes or play an audiobook in your vehicle while driving. You can’t read a book and do more than simply read a book. This is probably why text-to-speech services, podcasts, and audiobooks have grown in popularity. About 18% of the American population admitted to listening to at least one audiobook last year, while 50% of Americans listened to a podcast. In an increasingly busy world, listening works. 

Listening can also enhance comprehension. It’s true. People have enhanced comprehension when words or text are read with expression. Expresinvess helps the listener to understand the text and new words with greater ease. For example, studies show that those who struggled to read Shakespeare often had an easier time understanding the stories when they heard them being read aloud. While listening, it is profoundly easier to understand figurative and emotional meanings, even if they seemed a gray area in print.

The Downside of Listening

Unfortunately, with every upside, there is a downside. While listening is fantastic, it does have one key limitation: the inability to skim. When it comes to studying or informational text, skimming is important, or one can easily suffer from information overload. The other major disadvantage is the ability to hit the hypothetical rewind button should you need to reread a puzzling passage. While you can technically hit the back button on an audiobook it is a bit more difficult with text-to-speech or live podcasts. Additionally, listening is not exactly conducive to study strategies such as highlighting or note-taking. These things are easy with written text but impossible with an audio file. 

To Listen Or Not To Listen? 

At the end of the day, listening is a great way to absorb new information and retain concepts you don’t have time to read. Since listening and reading comprehension is similar, there is not always a need to physically read the text, especially if you need to juggle multiple tasks at once. Reading wins in some study situations or when note-taking is a must. Listening reigns supreme when you want to comprehend without the hassle or simply need a bit of help understanding difficult language. Whether you use text-to-speech or download an audiobook, listening certainly has its benefits.

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