Hearing (Photo credit: Keturah Stickann)

Nick Coleman is a Music Journalist/Critic, in love with many forms of music,  who writes passionately about musical taste, in short music has become his career and livelihood. One morning he woke up feeling dizzy, nauseous and soon had lost his hearing and was experiencing terrible tinnitus.  After battling with depression he has been able to teach himself to hear again.  He talked about his experience yesterday at the Edinburgh Book Festival.  A breakthrough moment for him was when he met the famous neurologist Oliver Sacks, who said that to be able to hear again he had to start by remembering his favourite songs.  Through this he learnt that we hear with our brains much more  than our ears.  If you play someone some music and map their brain ‘waves’, then switch the music off  and wait for 15 minutes and ask them to remember the music, the pattern of brain waves is exactly the same.  Working on this Coleman has taught himself to hear again (in one ear) and been able to resume his career.

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Photo credit: raphaelstrada

Towards the end of the session he said, ‘Although I don’t hear like I used to, I listen more carefully, listening is hearing plus mind, I now appreciate music even more;’.  I have been mulling over this difference between hearing and listening.  In an age of an incredible amount of ‘noise’ it could be possible that we are losing our ability to listen because we hear so much.  The art of attentive listening is hugely important, it has a therapeutic value for the person being listened to, it counteracts the loneliness and isolation in modern life. Listening with the mind could also be a useful way to think about prayer or meditation.  When people talk to me about being frustrated with prayer,  getting distracted, I often suggest that some distractions may be worth paying attention to.  It could be that God, who calls us through our deepest desires can sometimes being trying to get through to us through what we classify as distractions.

Rediscovering the art of  attentive listening to each other and to God could be crucial.