Absolute and relative hearing, what is it? Absolute hearing (sometimes called perfect hearing, which is not quite the same thing) is the ability of a listener to name tones musically without having first heard a reference tone. Absolute hearing occurs only in a minority of musical listeners and can vary in terms of accuracy and scope. Absolute hearing goes hand in hand with relative hearing. A major difference between the two is that with relative hearing you do depend on a reference tone.
Many musicians have relative hearing, because relative hearing can be trained. This is done through solfège exercises, which include the student being able to distinguish intervals and name chords after being given a reference tone. This training of relative hearing, for example, can result in the development of relative absolute hearing. To summarize : absolute hearing is a congenital “defect” in the positive sense, relative hearing is obtained by training on ear training exercises.