We’ve all been there. Overwhelmed with the situation or the task at hand and somehow found lost and distant from the world. Stress is what we sometimes call it, and it’s normal. But, according to a new study the mental attention we give to certain visual distractions is not always a condition of being stressed; just focused, which can cause us to become distant and deaf.
The new study out of University College London finds you can become temporarily deaf when focusing on a visual task, like reading a book, watching TV, or perusing your smartphone. “In order to hear, we don’t just need our ears to be operating; we need our brain to respond to the sound,” author Nilli Lavie explains. In the Journal of Neuroscience, Lavie and her team note a person’s sense of vision and hearing are found in the same region of the brain called the association cortex. Here, capacity is limited, so rather than multi-task, your brain chooses whether to see or hear at a given time. Previous research shows people lose focus on what’s in front of them when listening to sounds, reports Discovery News. When vision takes priority, there is “inattentional deafness,” researchers say.