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The Mishnah in Megillah (2:2) says that one who reads the megillah while semi-asleep ('מתנמנם') is yotzei. The gemara comments (18b):

מתנמנם יצא וכו': היכי דמי מתנמנם אמר רב אשי נים ולא נים תיר ולא תיר דקרו ליה ועני ולא ידע לאהדורי סברא וכי מדכרו ליה מידכר׃

What's מתנמנם? Sleeping, but not sleeping, awake, but not awake. If you call him, he'll answer; he can't do a sevara, but if you remind him, he'll remember.

This may imply that one does not need to be focusing very well to be yotzei. Where is the cut-off where one is no longer yotzei? If a person is daydreaming, but he hear's the words in the background, is he yotzei? What if he's looking at something else, e.g. his cellphone? This is also relevant for other areas where you need to listen to be yotzei, such as Kiddush on Friday night.

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That Mishna is talking about one who reads, not one who listens. –  Double AA Feb 25 '13 at 0:36
    
I almost upvoted this, because it's an interesting idea I'd never considered. But as you have implied, it's the plain meaning of the Gemara, which in fact seems more restrictive than even the Mishnah. So, if you know how to translate the Gemara, and you understand its plain meaning, what's the question? Are you asking if we Pasken that way? –  Seth J Feb 25 '13 at 0:37
    
@SethJ, the gemara doesn't spell out clearly how much the person is focusing. Someone checking his phone may be less "hearing" it than someone half-asleep. Also, see DoubleAA's comment. –  Ariel K Feb 25 '13 at 4:58
    
@DoubleAA שומע כעונה, no? –  Hacham Gabriel Feb 26 '13 at 18:38
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@HachamGabriel If you are שומע. –  Double AA Feb 26 '13 at 18:40

2 Answers 2

As mentioned in the comments, the Mishnah is just talking about one who reads the megillah. Someone who is falling asleep while listening will not be able to hear every word. The Shulchan Aruch is clear on this:

קראה מתנמנם, הואיל ולא נרדם בשינה, יצא. אבל אם שמעה מתנמנם, לא יצא.‏

This still doesn't answer the question of how much focus you need to be yotzei. The Be'er Heitiv (ibid. #11) cites the Rashba that says you are yotzei if you hear the words even if you are not "כון" for every word. This sounds like you still are focused overall, but what if you're spaced out?

The Piskei Teshuvos quotes someone who says you are not yotzei if your mind is wandering even if you can hear the words somewhat in the background. He cites another opinion that you will be yotzei if you're following along even if you are spaced out. Some suggest getting a real Megillah and reading along so you will for sure be yotzei.

(I wonder if one can just read along in a chumash, since it shouldn't be too hard to hear at least half the megillah from the chazan even when reading.)

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The Ben Ish Chai Writes in Tetzaveh Hilchos Purim 3:

אות ג קראה מתנמנם הואיל ולא נרדם בשינה יצא אבל השומע אם מתנמנם לא יצא וצריך להזהר בד"ז שהוא מצוי תמיד דאלו השומעים יתנמנמו, ולכתחילה אם ראו את הקורא שקרא איזה פסוקים מתנמנם מכריחין אותתו שיחזור ויקראנה, דלא אמרינן קראה מתנמנם יצא אלא בדיעבד היכא דסיים קריאת המגילה כולה:

If one is dozing off while hearing ,he is not yotzeai and he writes this is always found that people listen while in a dozing off state and they should be careful.

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