You’ll often find people who say they don’t learn well via audio.

That they need to read a transcript instead to understand something better.

That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.

And there are three reasons why.
1) The way in which we process audio separate from reading.
2) The way in which we ‘sit down’ to listen to audio.
3) So-called ‘audio learners’ find reading as well as audio just as easy.

The way in which we process audio separate from reading.
Till very recently there was this crazy myth that we somehow mishmashed the data and stored it in our brain, no matter if it was audio, or video, or text. That information was information, and it just got stored in one area of our brain. Modern research (because of better measurement tools) have shown that different areas of the brain light up when we listen to the exact words in audio, and another part of the brain lights up when we process video. And then quite another when we process text.

The brain actually creates ‘brain maps’ that make richer connections when it can process greater depth and range. So instead of one source of information, the brain accesses many sources almost simultaneously. And those that stubbornly stick their ‘I’m a reader’ not a listener, are just losing out for their stubborness factor.

But how do we know they’re being stubborn?
Because we know how damaged brains work. So in autistic children for instance, the brain does learn better via audio than learning. But most of us don’t have damaged brains.  We have biased brains. This means we’re not willing to push our brains outside our comfort zone, and hence the brain will do what you get it to do.

The more you avoid audio, the more your brain favours text. It indeed makes you faster at processing text, but gives the text a single dimension. So that which you gain in processing power and speed, you lose in dimension and depth.

Which takes us to the second point: The way in which we ‘sit down’ to listen to audio—and is flawed from the core!

The way in which we ‘sit down’ to listen to audio is exactly the way we read
When was the last time you went for a walk or dusted furniture while reading? You’ve been trained since you were a child to sit in one place and read. So like an obedient 40-year old you sit in one place and listen to audio.

Well, guess what?

Audio is not a medium that is kind to listeners who sit in one place. The brain is able to process words in speech faster than on paper. So when it has to sit in one place and do nothing else, it gets ‘bored.’ You feel sleepy, restless and of course, you sincerely believe audio-learning is not for you.

Audio learning requires movement and action. That’s why we get bored and tired after listening to speakers (even good ones) drone on for two-three hours. The best speakers know the way audio is processed, and hence get you to do stuff, or take breaks. Or whatever.

But I digress.

Because the third point is coming up quickly.

Have you noticed that audio-learners aren’t quite as stubborn?
They’ll happily read a book. Or a document. They don’t need you to take your book and turn it into an audio file. They may prefer audio (because they’ve worked out what we’ve discussed in Point 2), but they have no overwhelming desire to get everything in audio.

Compare this with ‘readers’ and you’ll see a marked difference. ‘Readers’ are militant about transcripts. They’re militant about books. They don’t want to go near audio if they can help it.Yet they have conversations and listen to the radio without any problem. When was the last time they wrote to their radio station or tv station asking for transcripts?

This is why I’m calling ‘readers’ stubborn.
They are so comfortable with speed, that they miss out on true learning.

The point I’m making is that you’re equally capable of learning via audio as text.
And it’s not going to be easy to get outside that comfort zone. Because your brain will resist the move.

So do me a favour. Read that book anyway. Turn your Kindle on, anyway.

But also strap on that iPod and go for a walk and listen to the very same information in audio.  It will do your biased brain as well as your stubbornness a whole lot of good. And keep you both mentally and physically fit!