Visual concentration can turn you deaf temporarily

If you see someone ignoring you when busy with their mobile devices, you should ideally tap them on their shoulder as concentrating on the device might have prevented them from hearing your voice. During a recent study, a research team at the University College London came to know that our brain’s senses of hearing and vision share an extremely limited processing capacity, as a result of which often the brain needs to choose between them.

During the study, 14 people were made to do some excessively difficult visual tasks, while high pitch sounds were played in their background. As the participants got busy completing the visual tasks assigned to them, the researchers started monitoring the activity of their brain.

The results revealed that when performing more challenging visual tasks, the early response of the brain to sound gets dampened. The researchers said that the participants didn’t ignore the sounds around them they actually didn’t hear them at all.

Nilli Lavie, the study author and a professor of brain sciences and psychology at the University College London, said that for hearing it’s not only important to get the ears function properly, it also important that our brain responds to the sounds. Lavie added that if the brain doesn’t respond as our concentration is fully into something else, then we might experience deafness temporarily.

Lavie continued by saying that she and her colleagues have confirmed a commonly reported experience by people, which suggests that they might fail to hear a sound when they are concentrating in something else. She said that this happens because brain signals connected to hearing get reduced significantly when one performs an extremely demanding visual task.

Here, it must be mentioned that brain signals are produced very quickly following the occurrence of the sounds. To be more precise, they are produced in less than a quarter of a second. This suggests that the very initial stages of our perception get affected.

The University College London researchers are not the first ones to suggest that our brain might get easily overloaded in this way. Prior to this, Daniel Simmons of the University of Illinois, who teaches psychology at the University, said that people can fail to see things located right in front of them when they are busy focusing their attention on something else.


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