Is Listening Better than Reading for Learning?

Reading or listening, which is better for comprehension, keeps us focused, and helps us work better? Here’s the answer:

Well, that depends. 

reading vs. listening

What are the Similarities between Reading and Listening?

According to scientific research on reading vs. listening, neuroscientists claim that they both have similar effects on the human brain. Whether you are reading a book or listening to a podcast, the same cognitive processes take place in your brain. But things can change if you are reading or listening for learning something, and there are several differences between the two ways of learning.

What are the Differences between Reading and Listening?

The most significant difference is that reading involves cognitive processes that occur on the left side of the brain. Listening, on the other hand, activates both hemispheres of the learners.

This happens because, when listening to an audiobook, you need to process speech and its meaning simultaneously.

In addition, although learning styles differ, you can be possibly more capable of multitasking while listening to something rather than reading it.

How Do Reading and Listening Affect Brain Activity?

The human brain is fairly incited by both reading and listening. However, while reading and listening are processed in the same brain area, interpreting the speech takes place in different sections of the brain.

Reading and listening activate different parts of the brain. Understanding what you’re reading activates the left brain (in areas associated with language processing), while understanding what you’re listening to activates both (in order to process speech and acoustics).

This is why you can read a book while listening to music. But you cannot do the opposite: there is no way to listen to an audiobook while reading. 

Is Reading or Listening Faster in Learning Process?

There is one final and essential element to this debate that has been definitively proven: reading is faster than listening. 

Decoding the auditory content takes more time than decoding the written content.

According to various sources, the average adult reads text around 250 to 300 words per minute. On the other hand, the average adult can listen and understand a recording around 150 to 160 words per minute.

How to Efficiently Learn with Reading?

While trying to improve your reading skills and reading comprehension, there are several key strategies you can apply to comprehend better:

  • Previewing
  • Predicting
  • Identifying the Main Idea and Summarizing
  • Questioning
  • Making Inferences
  • Visualizing
  • Retelling


When you preview text, you tap into what you already know which will help you to understand the text you are about to read. This provides a framework for any new information you read.


When you make predictions about the text you are about to read, it sets up expectations based on your prior knowledge about similar topics. As you read, you may mentally revise their prediction as you gain more information.

Identifying the Main Idea and Summarizing

Identifying the main idea and summarizing requires that you determine what is important and then put it in your own words. Implicit in this process is trying to understand the author’s purpose in writing the text.


Asking and answering questions about the text is another strategy that helps you focus on the meaning of the text. Instructors can help by modeling both the process of asking good questions and strategies for finding the answers in the text.

Making Inferences

In order to make inferences about something that is not explicitly stated in the text, students must learn to draw on prior knowledge and recognize clues in the text itself.


Studies have shown that students who visualize while reading have better recall than those who do not. Readers can take advantage of illustrations that are embedded in the text or create their own mental images or drawings when reading the text without illustrations.


After you finish reading something, try to explain the content in your own words. This strategy will force you to analyze the content to determine what is important. Thus, the information will be more permanent in your retention.

What are the Advantages of Reading?

Some of the outstanding advantages of reading to learn are listed below:

  1. It is faster than listening
  2. It improves concentration and the ability to focus
  3. It improves the memory capacity of your brain
  4. It provides stronger analytical thinking skills
  5. It improves your writing skills
  6. It increases your imagination and creativity
disadvantages of reading

What are the Disadvantages of Reading?

Sometimes reading to learn can have disadvantages such as:

  • It is quite easy to zone out while reading something
  • It can easily tire your brain and eyes
  • It can make you sleepy, especially if you are not willing to learn the content
  • It is not possible to multitask while reading
  • It requires a silent place most of the time
  • You probably will need to carry the books you want to read with you to everywhere

How to Efficiently Learn with Listening?

If you are listening to someone who is physically available in front of you, you can try these strategies to listen more efficiently and to improve your listening comprehension:

  • Maintain good eye contact but do not stare at the speaker
  • Ask clarifying questions
  • Try to be in the moment
  • Pay attention to facial expressions and other nonverbal communication
  • Make sure that you do not just hear the words, but infer meanings from them
  • Try not to think about what you are going to say after the speaker is finished


If you are listening to a pre-recorded voice, video, or audiobook, you can try these strategies to listen more efficiently:

  • Paraphrase back what you heard
  • Try to be emphatic and open-minded
  • Try to make a mental image of what you are hearing
  • Pay attention to the tone of the speaker
  • Take short notes of what you are listening


Rewind what you have not fully understood before continuing the rest of the recording.

What are the Advantages of Listening?

Some of the outstanding advantages of listening can be listed as:

  • It is possible to multitask with certain activities such as walking
  • It provides a greater ability to communicate
  • It develops your public speaking skills
  • It can lengthen your attention span
  • It can enhance interpersonal connections


In addition, foreign language learners can benefit from learning by listening, as one of the main issues with learning a new language is to understand while a native is speaking.

Lastly, you can also listen to the reading material by using text to speech software, so listening is more exclusive than reading in this respect. 

What are the Disadvantages of Listening?

Sometimes listening to learn can have disadvantages such as:

  • It takes more time than reading
  • You may need to have access to audiobooks
  • There may not be audial content as much as there is written content
  • You will need to have access to technological devices such as a laptop or phone with an internet connection
  • You will probably need headphones

What does Scientific Research Say About Reading vs. Listening Debate?

Listening and reading both have challenges that require the individual to focus on the material. While listening to the audio, a person must use real-time comprehension skills that instantly include interpreting and comprehending information. Taking notes adds to this effort.

Reading has visual challenges because images and videos are easier on the eyes than staring at just text.

Scientists are still unclear whether people develop a learning preference between reading or listening at an early age. The data are mixed as to which learning method leads to a greater understanding of the material.

reading vs. listening

How to Benefit from Listening to Learn?

If you want to learn something via listening, you can use text to speech (TTS) API, which reads aloud the written content aloud, or you can listen to audiobooks.

There are various domains where you can use text to speech such as online newspapers, websites, Microsoft Word documents, and PDFs, etc.

What is Audiobook?

Audiobooks are voice recordings of the text of a book that you listen to rather than read.

Unlike physical books, audio books provide more benefit to their users. For instance, a lot of people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, because reading a written text can be a huge suffering for those people and there are a lot of benefits of audiobooks for those people.

Audiobooks can be exact word-for-word versions of books or abridged versions. You can listen to audiobooks on any smartphone, tablet, computer, home speaker system, or in-car entertainment system.

How Do You Listen to an Audiobook?

Available as digital audio files, audiobooks can be played on any device that supports streaming audio.

They can be bought from online bookstores or downloaded from public domain places. Most public library systems contribute audiobook downloads online, and all you necessitate is a library card.

When you purchase or download audiobooks from the internet, they usually come in one of the following audio formats:

  • MP3
  • WMA (Windows Media Audio)
  • AAC (Advanced Audio Coding)

Most media devices are designed to play any of these file types.

Where Can You Listen to an Audiobook?

There are many websites and apps that provide access to audiobooks, both free and paid. Some examples of them are:

  • Apple Books
  • Audible
  • AllYouCanBooks
  • Project Gutenberg
  • OverDrive

Apple Books

Apple Books offer audiobooks for iOS and macOS devices that are available for download on the AppStore.


While audiobooks can be purchased individually, Audible offers a monthly subscription service that provides one free audiobook download per month. You can use the Audible app for Android or iOS to listen on mobile devices.


This site offers unlimited access to thousands of downloadable audiobooks. This paid site offers the first month for free.

Project Gutenberg

This site is well-known for offering thousands of free books in the public domain. It has a growing collection of human-read audiobooks that can be accessed over the internet.


This is an app that offers thousands of audiobooks from more than 30,000 local libraries.

What are the Differences between Audio Books and Text to Speech?

  • An audiobook is known as an audio recording of a book being read aloud, while text-to-speech software is an app utilizing technology that speaks aloud digital text such as books, magazine articles, news articles, and websites on a computer or mobile device.
  • Audiobooks are recorded utilizing the human voice, the author often of the publication or some other well-known actor or voice-over specialist. Because an individual reads the text, audiobook readings manage to include changes in tone and emotion and pause in the reading at regular places like at the end of sentences.
  • TTS utilizes computer-generated voice. There are several different TTS voices, and relying on the software being used, the reader can decide the gender and accent of the voice. As technology develops, the voices are sounding more and more natural.
  • Audiobooks are usually produced as a digital file such as in MP3 format, which can be played on computers or mobile devices, and smartphones.
  • TTS is a software program. It is often available as a pre-loaded utilization on various devices, and a type of TTS app can be downloaded and installed for the major operating programs.

What are the Benefits of Audio Book?

Audiobooks’ benefits can be listed as:

  • Enhancing your listening skills
  • Availability and convenience
  • Improving vocabulary, pronunciation, and comprehension
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