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Speed listening techniques

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Cliff Weitzman
By Cliff Weitzman Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify in Books on June 27, 2022
With the help of technology, we can now save valuable time by artificially increasing listening speed. Read more to learn how speed listening works, if it is actually beneficial, and tips when it comes to speed listening.

    Speed listening techniques

    Speed listening is a method of listening to content faster in order to decrease the time required to consume desired information. This skill can benefit anyone who has a lot of reading or listening to do but lacks the time to do it. Some examples of people who may benefit from speed listening include students, professionals, avid audiobook listeners, and podcast fanatics.

    You may be familiar with the learnable skill of speed reading, a tried-and-true system of training the brain to increase reading speed. Speed reading involves special methods that once learned, must be practiced in order to gain efficiency. Speed listening brings this idea into the modern era and is even easier to practice. A person can increase their listening speed gradually until they reach their goal. This article will explore speed listening benefits, tips, techniques and resources.

    What is speed listening

    With the help of technology, we can now save valuable time by artificially increasing listening speed. Speed listening is a useful tool that works with how our brains naturally process information. The human brain is already primed with the ability to process spoken words at a much faster rate than narrators can speak them. Many listening applications now possess the capability of accelerating audio. Speed listening has become an incredibly popular way to consume information.

    How does it work

    In casual conversation, people talk faster than they do while giving a lecture or narrating a book. The brain can handle the intake of information at a level even beyond the faster casual conversation rate, however, it does take some training to become comfortable with the new speed. The good news is it just takes a little practice. Just like learning anything new, the brain is able to adjust to new stimuli through repetition.

    Podfasters is becoming a trend

    Podcasts have been popular since 2004 and their popularity has only gained momentum since then. You can find podcasts about almost any interest and stream them directly to your smartphone or other device. Some popular applications for listening include Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Podbean, and Spotify. 

    Podcast fans often become a community, connected by their shared interests. Within the community of podcast devotees, the ability to intake more beloved shows in less time has spread like wildfire, earning the trend the title of Podfasters.

    Some speculate this trend stems from our society’s need for instant gratification. It could also be because schedules have become fuller and so the time for things we enjoy has become sparser. Either way, this trend is widely enjoyed by podcast listeners.

    Fastest a human can listen and comprehend

    The human mind can listen to and comprehend words at a rate of about 210 words per minute, which is twice as fast as those same words can be spoken. 210 words per minute, or 2.0x is considered ideal for practiced speed listeners to be able to comfortably listen, comprehend and retain information. Faster speeds are possible but may result in a loss of valuable retention and comprehension. With practice, speeds can be increased but as the brain adjusts, retention and comprehension levels will follow. Each person should aim to remain aware of how effectively the information is being processed. Listening faster is only beneficial if the desired information can be efficiently assimilated.

    Pros and Cons of speed listening

    As with anything speed listening comes with positive and negatives. Speed listening allows you to study faster, improve listening skills, and achieve more. These pros can be met with dangers including impatience in other areas of learning.

    Study faster with speed listening

    School can be an overwhelming experience for many. Students try to do their best to read everything assigned to them and may feel that they simply cannot achieve this lofty goal. Now, with speed listening, students don’t have to miss out on the valuable information their textbooks have to offer. Nowadays, textbooks are often available as audiobooks. They can even be found on the popular e-book app, Audible by Amazon. There are also apps, such as Speechify, that can read textbook pages from a photograph. With this option, learners have access to both the visual aspects of the book and the ability to listen to its words. The book then remains easy to navigate and the cost of potentially buying the book twice has been mitigated. Reading apps can be a hugely beneficial study tool, especially since they possess the capability read in a fast speech or at a slower speed when needed.

    Sense of achievement

    Sometimes the information people choose to speed listen to is necessary for school or work and sometimes the information is for fun, curiosity, or self-improvement. There is a sense of achievement when a book is finished, when something new is learned, when something is marked off a to-do list. These are all things speed listening can help a person accomplish. Maybe there’s a book you’ve always wanted to read, but the number of pages was too lofty and intimidating. That no longer has to be the case with speed listening.

    Dangers of speed listening

    Practicing speed listening can be very overwhelming at first. Be sure to temper your progress with frequent breaks. It’s a good idea to reduce the listening speed periodically, especially before increasing the speed to a new, higher level. If you feel yourself becoming overstimulated, you may wish to dial back for a bit or take a break that involves calming activities or silence. Mental fatigue and burnout are very real, physiological events. The more mental energy expended in processing so much information, the more necessary break time becomes.

    Those practicing speed reading should also be mindful about whether or not speed reading is appropriate during times when other things might need your attention, such as commuting. If your attention is divided, you may find that neither thing can be done well.

    Multi-tasking can cause the listener to zone out and miss important information. The goal with speed listening is to save time but if you find that you frequently have to go back and relisten, any time saved will be lost.

    Another danger of speed listening is the tendency for things at normal speed to begin to feel unbearably slow………

    Maximizing listening productivity can lead to impatience in other areas.

    When we train our brains to listen at rapid speeds, we become accustomed to the new volume of information. This could make everything else seem slower. There is so much access to playback speed control available to us. Even a YouTube video can be made faster. TV shows could be watched faster. Our senses become inundated and adjust to the new stimulus so that our brains crave more and more constant input. At some point, this becomes unhealthy for the average person. While this is a good point to consider, balance is always an important thing to remember.

    Techniques to speed listen with Speechify

    One of the most user-friendly apps to practice speed listening with is Speechify. Speechify allows you to easily translate text to speech. Many common apps can connect directly with Speechify. Text can also be entered by copying and pasting it directly into the app or even by taking a photograph of a page of a book. Speechify can read your texts or e-mails as well. Speechify has many speed options as well as the Automatic Speed Ramping feature which will gradually increase speed as you listen.

    Below are the steps to practice listening at higher speeds by gradually increasing the audio content’s playback speed. At first, you will find listening comprehension may suffer, but try to relax your mind and be patient with the process. Eventually, you will find yourself adjusting and it will get easier.

    Step 1: Play your lecture at its regular speed

    Step 2: Bump the speed to 1.25x

    Step 3: Go to 1.5x

    Step 4: Once adjusted to 1.5x, go to 1.75x

    Step 5: Keep cranking up the speed until you can’t handle any more.

    It should be noted that, during this process it can be beneficial to periodically decrease the listening speed before increasing to the next level. Try pushing yourself to a new speed, then decreasing that speed and noticing how the previous speed now feels so much more comfortable. Then, when you’re ready, increase to the next step. Once you’re up to your goal speed, try listening to something just a little faster than that goal. When you return to your goal speed, you will find your goal speed to be a lot more palatable. Before you know it, that goal speed will be so comfortable and natural to you, your original speed may start to seem unnaturally slow.

    Speed listening is a wonderful tool

    Speed listening has become so popular for a reason. It is an incredibly useful tool that allows people to pursue knowledge and achieve their goals more efficiently. While it may be healthy to remember balance in your use of speed listening, the brain-training process provides a wonderful tool which gives control over how and when information is consumed, opening up new possibilities for success and fulfillment.

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    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.

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