Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Learn to listen, really listen April 20, 2017

I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A MAJOR proponent of the art of listening. Listening differs from hearing, which is a physical act. Listening requires close attention to what is being spoken.

I don’t hear well due to a severe sensorineural hearing loss in my right ear. If I walk into a room and someone says hello, I may not hear. And if I do hear, I will scan the room to determine the location of the speaker. I can’t pinpoint sound sources. Put me in a group of people carrying on multiple conversations or before someone speaking too softly and I struggle to hear. Add music or white noise (like a fan or air conditioner or furnace) and I won’t hear anything. Whisper into my right ear and I won’t hear you.

For six years now I’ve dealt with this severe permanent hearing loss. And no, a hearing aid won’t help. My brain processes sound at a slower rate if at all. Every single day I need words repeated to me because I simply do not hear them. It is frustrating and difficult. But I manage.

While an unexplained cause (likely a virus, so my ENT team surmised) forever altered my ability to hear, I remain committed to the art of listening. It is a skill I honed decades ago, first as an introverted child and later as I studied journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter. To be a good journalist, you have to be a good listener.


My column on trustworthiness, courtesy of The Virtues Project, Faribault.


I use that skill of listening beyond my chosen profession as a writer. I practice good listening in my everyday life and consider myself a good listener. I wrote on the topic of listening as it relates to the virtue of trustworthiness for The Virtues Project, Faribault. The Virtues Project is a “global initiative to inspire the practice of virtues in everyday life.” Virtues like honesty, understanding, caring, respect and more are being addressed each week in columns published in the Faribault Daily News. This was my week to write on trustworthiness in a column titled “Learn to Listen, Really Listen.”

From 10 a.m. to noon this Saturday, The Virtues Project, Faribault Team will expand on listening during a workshop on “The Art of Companioning.” That process is defined as “just listen to a person when they are sharing their story—without judgment, expectations, or fixing. Often times a hearing ear is just what the other person really wants, and when we do that, we are giving the person a chance to come up with their own solution.” The event will be held in the Buckham Memorial Library Great Hall in Faribault and is open to all at no cost. We could all benefit from learning and implementing the art of companioning.

TELL ME: Do you consider yourself to be a good listener? Why?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


18 Responses to “Learn to listen, really listen”

  1. I too suffer from this -(though I had no name for it befor reading this – i swore off doctors 30 years ago when Mum died so miserably) – however I think that my hearing loss has created two changes in me – I LOOK harder and also I lean into the person speaking to me, angling my good ear in as I Iisten. Interesting to read this – thank you.. c

    • I am so sorry you also suffer from this type of hearing loss. If you ever experience any hearing loss in your “good” ear, consider it a medical emergency. That’s what I’ve been told. Had I sought immediate medical help during my moment of sudden sensory hearing loss, it’s possible it could have been reversed. I did call the doctor’s office right away, but was advised to come in only if my condition worsened. It’s one of those cases when I should have gone to see an ENT immediately.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    I, like you, am a listener. I try to listen beyond the words that are expressed and through active listening pull out more from the person I am listening to. In our busy and noisy world it is an important skill and I consider it to be one of my most prized skills that God has allowed me to develop over the years. This event would be a great one to attend. Thanks for sharing and for listening….

  3. *** “just listen to a person when they are sharing their story—without judgment, expectations, or fixing****

    This is indeed an “ART.”

    I consider myself a good listener, but Mr. Liverpool does not!

    xx from Duluth.

  4. I recently read an article that stated we have 300,000 technology interactions and speak around 100,000 words a day, however; have an attention span of 8 seconds, which is equivalent to a gold fish’s attention span. That spoke volumes to me! I am a good listener, but continue to become better through practice. Thanks so much for sharing – Great Topic for discussion today. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  5. Littlesundog Says:

    My hearing has diminished over the years. One ear does a better job than the other. I blame the loss in the bad ear on having jobs where I answered the phone most of my life. And of course like most young people, I listened to music way too loud growing up. I have found lip reading to be quite helpful, and simply asking people to slow down and enunciate their words it helps a lot. I am a good listener. I just need a little help hearing what people have to say.
    The odd thing is, I have difficulty hearing conversations – it’s kind of a mumble to me. But put me out in the woodlands and I can hear the tiniest buzz from an insect, or identify what animal is approaching my listening to the footsteps. I cannot explain it… but I love that my hearing seems sharp when it comes to being out in nature!

    • Tones and pitches, even words spoken and in what volume along with background noise all make a difference in what I hear/don’t hear. Your hearing loss sounds much like mine. I find that I really need to focus on what is being said. Slowing down and enunciation would help me a lot. Instead, I find myself saying, “What did you say?”

      I’m not surprised that you hear those sounds in nature. They are different than human speech and easier, I think, to hear.

  6. Jackie Says:

    Rick tells me I am a good listener, I guess I agree. I am more of an introvert although you would probable not guess it. I prefer to listen, but I’m not afraid to add to conversation. I enjoyed reading your article and might I just add, I love the inset photo of you, you’re a beauty in so many ways!

  7. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    I prefer to listen more than talk. I think it come more naturally to some people than others

  8. Susan Ready Says:

    Listening is a skill many have not mastered.Perhaps we are just in a hurry to let others know our thoughts and opinions . A nice piece you wrote to emphasize the importance of being a better listener.

    • I agree that many have not mastered the skill of listening. I suffer from a severe hearing loss, yet I consider myself a good listener based on how I handle/process what I hear in my interactions with others. I think the key really is thinking about the person we are communicating with and not ourselves. This is about them, not us.

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