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Lost in a newspaper? It can deafen you--study

The researchers from University College London have coined the term “inattentional deafness.” Scientists believe that inattentional deafness and inattentional blindness are conditions that can lead to road accidents while driving.

Often feel that your husband turns a deaf ear to you while reading newspaper at the breakfast table? Well, spare him the tough looks, as a new study has found that being engrossed in an activity can block one's ability to hear.

According to the research findings published in the journal Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, concentrating on a specific task like reading a newspaper or solving a sudoku puzzle can make people deaf to the audible sounds around them.

The researchers from University College London have coined the term “inattentional deafness.”

Study leader Prof Nilli Lavie, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, believes, “Inattentional deafness is a common everyday experience.

“For example, when engrossed in a good book or even a captivating newspaper article, we may fail to hear the train driver's announcement and miss our stop."

In one experiment related to inattentional blindness, researchers found that the subjects were so engrossed in the basketball game that they failed to notice a man in a gorilla suit walk past.

100 people studied
To reach the study findings, researchers analyzed around 100 volunteers who were asked to perform tasks on the computer while wearing the headphones. The task involved series of cross shapes.

Some were easy, like distinguishing the color difference between the cross arms. Others were tough like identifying the difference between the length of cross arms.

While the participants were performing task, a tone was played unexpectedly through the headphone. Immediately after the sound, the task was stopped, and volunteers were asked if they heard the sound.

Concentration causes deafness
Analyzing the participants, researchers found that when they performed easy tasks like distinguishing colors, only two in 10 missed the sound.

However, while performing the more difficult task, nearly eight out of 10 didn't hear the tone.

Based on the study findings, Prof Lavie stated, "Hearing is often thought to have evolved as an early warning system that does not depend on attention, yet our work shows that if our attention is taken elsewhere, we can be effectively deaf to the world around us.”

Another downside of concentration
Like inattentional deafness, there is another condition called inattentional blindness, which is thought to be another downside of concentration.

In one experiment related to inattentional blindness, researchers found that the subjects were so engrossed in the basketball game that they failed to notice a man in a gorilla suit walk past.

Scientists believe that inattentional deafness and inattentional blindness are conditions that can lead to road accidents while driving.