It seems to me that the play-by-ear versus play-the-notes depends on the person, not the instrument or the type of taditional music. They are different ways of using the brain, and we all have different brains and different ways to get to the same result.
So which one are you? You don't know yet! Start to learn the basics of reading music, because a basic familiarity with written music is always helpful. See how this fabulously versatile tool works in your hands, and be patient - you're learning a new language.
And do your best to hear it and play what you hear - it is also a developable skill.
Neither is better, because they will both get you where you are going, and even if you favor one method, the other can still serve you as well. I'd rather just pick it up by ear, but if you give me the music and a little time, I can have the tune in hand.
That said, playing by ear is more convenient because you don't need the written music to transmit the tune, so long as somebody knows the tune to start with.
Enjoy the journey!