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Smartphones Actually Cause Temporary Deafness

Focusing on your phone make you deaf to everything else

(Mirror Daily, United States) – Numerous attention-grabbing gadgets, such as smartphones actually cause temporary deafness in a way that it tricks our brain. Most of us have had incidents where we simply do not hear someone talking to us when we’re engaged in complex action or interesting things. Be it a movie, a game, a book, or just texting on our phone, the outside world is shut out.

Researched from the University College London (UCL) conducted a study on 13 volunteering participants. They were each given a pair of headphones, and a screen in front of them that displayed letters. Their task was to press the letter on the keyboard after it appeared on the screen. However, those images flashed for less than one quarter of a second.

As their attention was gripped onto quickly noting the letter on the screen, researchers found a divide in attention. The sounds playing within the headphones were not just ignored, they were virtually unheard. The researchers explains that both vision and hearing require the same region of the brain to be active. When met with both in high concentrations, it’s forced to choose one.

According to co-author of the study, Nilli Lavie, a professor at UCL, we need both our ears and our brains to properly hear. But, when faced with tasks that required a lot of concentration, sound fell to the wayside. Co-author of the study, Dr. Maria Chait, stated that in that moment, our brain doesn’t ignore or just filter the sound. It’s actually not hearing it at all.

Researchers made their observations through magnetoencephalography (MEG), and it’s now the first study to discover the mechanism behind the phenomenon. It sounds surreal, but it actually happens in everyday life. People texting while walking, for example, will hear the loud sounds of sirens or honking, but they may miss out the subtle noise of an engine or a bicycle bell. That opens them to accidents or injuries.

Their findings were drawn after noting that background noises only falter when the attention is set on complex tasks. This is called “inattentional deafness”, and it is in fact, rather dangerous. Multitasking is limited, and by getting absorbed into a visual image, something such as hearing is ignored. Thus, we become temporarily deaf, as unbelievable as that sounds.

According to Dr. Chait, this was an experimental lab study, and they were able to find the cause-and-effect link between complex visual tasks and inattentional deafness. The brain scans showed drastically reduced activity in the auditory sense. So, when someone is focused on a movie, texting or playing a game, there’s a chance that they’re not ignoring, but they genuinely cannot hear you.

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