Did You Know Watching Something Makes You Temporarily Deaf?

By Julio Alberto Cachila, Parent Herald December 09, 06:37 am
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For sure, many have tried to talk to a person who was either watching TV, texting or playing on a handheld device and failed to receive any response. Science has discovered the reason why a person seems to act deaf when doing so.

A study, which is published in the Journal of Neuroscience, has discovered that the senses of vision and hearing both share limited neural resources. This simply means that when a person is focused on seeing something, he/she won't be able to hear as better as he/she normally can.

"Inattentional deafness is a common experience in everyday life, and now we know why," study co-author Professor Nilli Lavie from the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience said in a press release.

The researchers examined brain scans from 13 volunteers and have found that the brain's response to sound significantly decreases when a person is engaged in a demanding visual task.

Additionally, it was found that the brain's ability to detect sounds while engaged in a demanding visual activity is more likely to fail even though the sounds played were clearly audible – and the sounds can be clearly noticed when visual engagement is not that demanding.

"This was an experimental lab study which is one of the ways that we can establish cause and effect. We found that when volunteers were performing the demanding visual task, they were unable to hear sounds that they would normally hear," study co-author Dr. Maria Chait of the UCL Ear Institute explained. "The brain scans showed that people were not only ignoring or filtering out the sounds, they were not actually hearing them in the first place."

Although the idea of “inattentional deafness” has been observed by the researchers before, this study is the first to delve into the mechanics by which the brain becomes deaf to sounds while engrossed in visually-demanding tasks.

“We can fail to notice things that are right in front of us when we are focusing our attention on other things,” Daniel Simons, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, told ABC news. He is not involved with the study.

The researchers noted that the findings have serious implications and will be helpful in dealing with certain situations, such as operating rooms, driving and walking on the streets while texting.

The researchers added that it can also help cyclists and motorists to keep their eyes on the road instead of focusing on an interesting-looking passerby, as they might not hear any warning sound.

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