Recently, researchers in England have demonstrated that the human mind can block out auditory information, if it is sufficiently distracted by visual information. They have named this phenomenon “inattentional deafness”. In simple terms, this means that we will have more trouble hearing and understanding something, when we’re watching something else.
Most of us will probably feel like we already knew that, without needing a research study to prove it! The television is the most common visual distraction. How often has your spouse, or someone else, said “please turn the TV off while I’m talking to you!”
But there are other visual distractions that we cannot control. While we’re driving, we have to keep our eyes on the road. In a restaurant, there are servers and staff moving about, and interesting people to watch at other tables. We often find ourselves in situations where we want to listen to one conversation, but are forced to watch some other activity taking place.
Most people can cope with this reasonably well, but an individual with hearing loss will have much greater difficulty. With hearing loss, it is already hard enough to listen and understand a conversation. A visual distraction just makes it worse – in some cases, impossible to really hear the conversation we want to hear.
If you encounter difficulty in these situations, please have your hearing evaluated. Feel free to call our office for a complete evaluation.
In the meantime, here is a fun test to take to check your visual awareness. Almost no one “passes” this test, but it’s fun to do! Give it a try: