Which is the best learning style: Reading or listening?

Which is the best learning style: Reading or listening?

By Adetunji Paul Wealth

I was so surprised when I found out that my friend reads 2 voluminous books in 5 days while doing his daily business. How does he do it? Is it reading or is it listening?
Read on and you will find out.

A lot of people have been one-sided, choosing either reading or listening. Some go to the extent to say that audio books (listening) will overshadow books (reading), and will become the most acceptable learning style. But the possibility of that is slim especially, since the advent of e-books in 1971 by Michael. S. Hart, which made reading easier and better.

But the question remains: How does my friend do it? And which style is recommended for you?

Let’s take a look at it together and solve the puzzle.

Retention, Memory, and Comprehension.

Your brain reacts differently to reading and listening styles, but according to Professor Matthew Traxler (University of California), you use the same mental faculty to understand and retain information from either reading or listening.

Times reported research by Rogowsky that used Unbroken (a nonfiction book about world War II) as their case study. The research was divided into 3 groups:

  1. Group 1 listened to the audiobook.
  2. Group 2 read the e-book.
  3. Group 3 did both (read and listened).

The result from the research after a quiz proved that there is no significant difference in comprehension between the 3 groups. From the results, it was vivid that a reader and a listener understand and retain knowledge the same way.

Which is better in overcoming distractions and regaining concentration?

The influx of information nowadays cause a lot of distractions; which means you can get distracted even when you read or listen to books. If you get distracted when reading, it is easier to retrace your steps and locate where you were to re-read or read further.

But in listening, it’s quite difficult to get exactly where you are especially when it’s something complicated. You either start at the back or move forward which will either cause slowness or low comprehension.

So, reading is better for balancing and regaining concentration compared to listening.

Can you get the writer’s tone and intended meaning from reading or listening?

Of course, reading is a great way to communicate your voice using texts, punctuations, and sign language, especially if you are a good reader and writer, but it can’t be compared to listening.

In listening, you get to hear the speaker’s intonation, sarcasm, etc, which will enable better comprehension

Can you highlight or underline text?

We all know what highlights or lines do in learning. It helps in easy references, identify important points, etc.

But unfortunately, listening (audiobooks) does not enable this. Because you can’t underline/highlight what you hear; whereas, in reading, you can underline or highlight your text whether it’s an e-book or a physical book.

Can you multi-task?

You definitely can’t multi-task while reading so that means the advantage goes to listening. But there is a problem: You won’t learn much because you are doing two things that demand your attention, which will slower your assimilation process.

So, multitasking might not be a good thing for you, only if you are listening to something not too important or for pleasure.

I am not annulling the fact that you can get good at it, but you should also take note that it takes time.

Can you use both learning styles?

The answer is an emphatic Yes!

Reading and listening complement each other. When you listen to a book, then read the book, you will comprehend better and vice versa.

Back to my story in the introduction, my friend uses this method. After listening to the book, he then reads them

“After listening, reading becomes faster for me because I already have the basic idea,” he says.

But before we round up this interesting topic, is reading faster than listening?

Reading or Listening, which is faster?

Your answer is as good as mine. Reading is faster than listening. Although this solely depends on the reader and listener, research has proven it.

A normal reader reads between 250 – 300 words per minute, while a normal speaker speed is between 150 – 160 words per minute.
So, when you have read 1,250 – 1500 words in 5 minutes, you are still listening to 750 – 800 words in 5 minutes.

Can you see the difference?

Although auctioneers speak about 250 words in a minute, if the speaker talks too fast like an auctioneer, the listener won’t understand the speaker anymore.

And at times, there might be background noise, sound break, and word distortion. Especially when the speaker has an accent or does not speak clearly.
In this case, reading is better.


We’ve contrasted reading and listening. And it is evident that both are beneficial to you and even complementary, but when compared individually, reading is better than listening.

Do you know you can experience both reading and listening style by reading aloud?

You will hear yourself (listening) and at the same time, you are reading. You can check out my previous article on reading aloud so you can understand the benefits of reading aloud.

Most audio books are paid but there are numerous free e-books you can benefit from online especially in our library. Download books on different categories in our library.

At this point, I believe that I have answered both questions asked in the introduction.

Don't forget to share this article with your friends on your best social media platform, if you got value.
Thanks for reading.

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