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What is ‘conscious listening’ — and how does it work?

Hoda Kotb visited a "quiet room" to help understand the concept of conscious listening.

Listening is a vital part of Hoda Kotb's job as a journalist, but even she admits that she could use a refresher on how to be truly present from time to time.

On her quest to refine her listening skills, the TODAY anchor recently spoke with sound and communication expert Julian Treasure to find out what conscious listening is and how it can help you connect with the people around you.

"It's realizing that you need to put focus on it. Listening is work, it takes effort. It takes time, and in our multitasking world it's very tough," Treasure said.

So, what do you need to do to get started? Treasure recommended that Hoda get reacquainted with "the baseline of sound," aka silence.

“It resets your ears, it recalibrates them and it allows you to listen afresh,” he explained. 

The expert sent her to Ex Machina Soundworks in Brooklyn to test out their state of the art quiet room. It’s one of the quietest places on Earth and has a sound threshold of under zero decibels.

Listening is work, it takes effort. It takes time, and in our multitasking world it's very tough.

Julian Treasure

Once inside, Hoda tested the limits of the room and started saying "Hello" over and over again.

"I didn't even realize how loud the world is until right now," she mused as she got acclimated to the stark silence.

Hoda later told her TODAY co-anchors what it was like to leave the room and re-emerge into the noisy world of New York City.

"Everything was on fire. I literally wanted to roll the windows up in the car," she said.

Hoda also explained that experts advise that you only stay in the quiet room for 10 minutes tops since it can be so jarring.

"People get emotionally a little bit off because you're not used to being in complete and utter silence hearing your own breath," she said.

Up next, Treasure recommended that Hoda immerse herself in a noisy place and try to isolate each sound.

“You can start to disentangle, 'What are the sounds around me and why is this noise kind of intimidating me? And what’s it doing to me at every level?” he explained.

Finally, he advised that Hoda experience the healing sounds of nature.

Related: How to be a good listener: 7 tips for better communication

So, how does this all translate into really hearing people? Hoda also spoke with percussionist/composer Evelyn Glennie to find out. Glennie is almost completely deaf but listens in her own unique way.

"In my case, it's all about opening the body up as a resonating chamber so that the body is almost like a huge ear and that means that every sense is involved in the process of listening," she explained.

The composer realized she needed to find a new way to listen when she was 12 years old and started in the field of percussion. When her hearing aids garbled the sound, her teacher instructed her to place her hands on the wall beside the drum and the results surprised her.

"I could actually feel that drum somewhere on my hands. (It) was just like sun rays coming up," she said. "It suddenly made me realize that I had to pay attention."

Listening is a skill that Glennie has honed and mastered over the years and Hoda said that visiting Ex Machina Soundworks made her understand just how much noise there is competing for our attention on a daily basis.

“You realize all the little things. and you realize all the outside noise," she told her co-anchors.

Hoda also said she's applied the lessons she learned from this experience to help her become a better listener with her children, Haley (4) and Hope (2).

"Well my kids don't listen to me," Savannah Guthrie said.

And Carson Daly had an amusing suggestion to help with that: "You should lock them in that room," he said.