On a Beach Walk: No. 51 (Hearing)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Hearing the sounds of the sea as I walk is relaxing. The sequence of the upswell at the start of the breaking waves to the clap of the crest’s splash to the shoosh gently fading away. I even hear the popping of the tiny bubbles as water caresses my feet.

That sound is repetitive and constant while dominating the beach’s soundscape – but both similar and different with each passing day.

Hearing – the only sense relying on vibrations. The shell of our outer ear captures the sound waves of the sea and then directs those waves that we don’t hear then to the eardrum – causing it to vibrate. – which causes the 3 bones of the middle ear to vibrate – yet we do not hear.

The vibrating bones cause another membrane to vibrate – which causes inner ear fluid to vibrate – then nerve endings specialized to a particular wavelength of sound detect the vibrations – yet we do not hear.

Nerves carry the detected messages to a specialized section in the brain that puts all the messages together into what we hear. Ahhhh … now I hear the sounds of the sea that I enjoy.

I think of the classic holiday song, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” because we apply our own perspective into interpreting sounds. What one enjoys, another may not.

Without hearing, sound is silence to the listener. They do not hear the emotions music conveys. They do not experience the sounds of nature. They cannot differentiate the soundscapes of the beach, the stream, the woods, and the meadow.

They do not hear the words of love, encouragement, support, enthusiasm, and wisdom. They do not hear the voice that gives one peace. On the plus side, they are protected from the political noise of partisan pickering, personal slander, and consistent vitriol.

I think of the animals in nature whose hearing mechanism is like ours – yet some are acutely more sensitive for protective purposes. Dogs have nerve endings for detecting frequencies beyond our upper range, so they painfully hear the dog whistle that we cannot hear. Deer, who detect a slight rustling of the ground caused by a seemingly quiet step by a human in the distance.

Hearing isn’t the same as listening. Some may say listening is sophisticated hearing. Listening is mindful attention to what is said. Listening is focusing on the spoken words, not on what to say in response. Listening is something we give someone – respect – a gift that connects us to others.

Listening stimulates our thoughts. Listening make one better. Listening leads to a great understanding. Listening connects humanity. Listening joins us with nature as we concentrate on the natural sounds while trying to apply meaning.

But, some favor being heard or hearing their own voice. Then again, maybe they simply favor telling over listening.

Hearing – a sense that we value – yet take for granted. Does listening to loud music through headphones at a high volume demonstrate a greater value for music than hearing? But what did I know then – or simply did I not listen to wisdom? Is this a reason for my hearing aids today?
I have a choice when I walk. I can hear the wind or I can listen to it. Thinking about what the wind is saying or even letting the mind wander and wonder. After all, I like walking the beach because it is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

49 thoughts on “On a Beach Walk: No. 51 (Hearing)

    • Rachel,
      The sounds of the sea are unquestionably special … and maybe more so for those of us that don’t have them relatively close. I always look forward to your comments on these walks. Not many more senses to go.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The sounds of the sea are Unquestionably special Frank. Tuning in to those sounds gives an inner peace I don’t think I can get many, if any other places.

        To hear you look forward to my comments on these posts is very special, and means a lot. I love these posts and they always resonate. It’s amazing how the sea can connect us, isn’t it. I hope the posts continue after you are done with the senses.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes – I look forward to your comments – but am also glad they resonate. There is something special about the calming aspect of the sea. Partially because being by the sea is not daily or even an occasional time for me. Plus, as I draft these posts, I want a certain calmness and rhythm in the words.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Deep thoughts, Frank.

    I love the line about how listening is sophisticated hearing. And yes, there is a respectful quality to listening rather than simply hearing.

    It seems that too many people just want to be heard and have absolutely no desire to listen to anything at all. And when you begin to consider all that ails us, you can’t help but wonder how easy it might be to extricate ourselves from these obstacle . . IF listening was a thing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ah, hearing and listening …..elementary! Listening to the sea… ah, bliss!!!!!!
    By the way, I still enjoy music only with headphones [when I say ‘still’ I mean ever since I got my first headphones as a child!] It’s like a ‘personal moment’ for me! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I love this exploration. The differences between listening and hearing can be mesmerizing. Sounds are my preferred entry to the world–I am an auditory learner, need/want sounds in the background to feel relaxed and settled, odd noises like dripping faucets and ticking clocks drive me crazy, but crashing waves is so divine.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Patti,
      Excellent addition about auditory learning. Interesting how music in the background enhances learning for some, but serves as a distraction to others. … let alone the effect of other sounds/noises. Oh … Noise is something I could have added! … Bottom line, glad you enjoyed this walk.


  4. I hear you!
    Well, I hear the message in the words you have written. Perhaps that is more like listening? I hear your words and message when I read them out loud, but I hear my voice, not yours.
    Every Wednesday & Friday, I hear the sounds of music coming through the floor, as a bunch of musicians jam. I love it. My drawing has improved, loosened up a lot since I started sketching along with their audio creations.
    Hearing is precious.
    Another great beach walk, thank you, Frank!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Sounds can evoke so many things. A boom of fireworks excites some while terrifies others. The difference between hearing and listening is huge. You can hear while doing other things but when it is time to really pay attention, all must be dropped and full attention given so that you can listen with your all.
    Lovely post.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Merril,
      I agree – there is a lot to think about hearing when one thinking about hearing. 🙂 … well, at least I tried. One of the interesting things I find on these posts is that readers often add other aspects that I didn’t consider – therefore actually adding to the thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. How our ears/hearing work is such an amazing miracle. And still hard for me to understand. How our “listening” muscle works is a whole different thing. Sometimes I wonder if listening is attached to the ego – the bigger the ego, the smaller the listening muscle. :-0 ???
    My insides melt when I hear beautiful music/sounds like a classical piece of piano/violin, or the sounds of waves on the surf. Melting meditation.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The sounds of surf hitting a beach is one of the best sounds around. The comfort in its repetition is calming and quiets the mind. Listening on a beach is one of life’s best endeavors.Of course the actual physiology of hearing is quite remarkable, and yet, it’s that repetition and the occasional sea gull that touches my soul when at the beach.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. The differences between hearing and listening are paramount in learning a new language. So much of what we process in our native language is the result of being able to instantly tune out sounds that don’t match up with the words and phrases we know. I share your enjoyment of beach walking, which involves hearing and listening to the sound language of waves and pelicans minus the talk of humans, live or through earbuds.

    Liked by 2 people

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