You made me look for them in the "pai dos burros" :-D (literally "father of the dumbs", an expression sometimes we use for the dictionary...) So, that's what I found: formally "escutar" means precisely "to listen" (the action or effort to hear), but I can say with my experience that it is widely used in the sense of "to hear". In the other side, "ouvir" means both "to hear" and "to listen" even in my dictionary (Dicionário Houaiss da Língua Portuguesa, a very authoritative one). Conclusion: if you want to be completely formal, "escutar" should be translated only into "to listen". But in real life language, "ouvir" and "escutar" are interchangeable and mean both "to hear" and "to listen".
It is real world practice. We don't always have hints to help us out so it keeps us on our toes as we have to work harder to make sure that we remember. Sometimes you can create your own hints, though. Each time you learn a new word, associate it with something that is easy for you to recall.