Wednesday Dec 9, 2015
If your husband is deaf to your attempts to make conversation while he is watching rugby or doing the crossword, it may not be his fault.
Scientists say that far from ignoring you, he simply can't hear you. And women can be just as guilty.
When we concentrate on a visual task, we become deaf to sounds we would normally be able to hear, a study shows.
Scans suggest that the senses of sight and hearing share limited brain capacity and, when in competition, the eyes win.
Tests on 13 people showed the brain responds less to sounds when focusing on a complicated word search puzzle then when doing an easier one. Study co-author Maria Chait of University College London said: "We found that when volunteers were performing the demanding visual task, they were unable to hear sounds that they would normally hear.
"The brain scans showed that people were not only ignoring or filtering out the sounds, they were not actually hearing them in the first place."
The phenomenon of 'inattentional deafness' has been shown before but the study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, is the first to illustrate what is happening in the brain.
A similar condition, 'inattentional blindness', has already been documented. In one experiment, observers became so engrossed in a basketball game that they failed to notice a man in a gorilla suit walking across their field of vision.
Researcher Professor Nilli Lavie said: "Inattentional deafness is a common experience in everyday life, and now we know why."
"For example, if you try to talk to someone who is focusing on a book, game or television programme and don't receive a response, they aren't necessarily ignoring you, they might simply not hear you.
"This could also explain why you might not hear your train or bus stop being announced if you're concentrating on your phone, book or newspaper.
"This has more serious implications in situations such as the operating theatre, where a surgeon concentrating on their work might not hear the equipment beeping.
"It also applies to drivers concentrating on complex satnav directions as well as cyclists and motorists who are focusing intently on something such as an advert or even simply an interesting-looking passer-by.
"Pedestrians engaging with their phone, for example texting while walking, are also prone to inattentional deafness.
"Loud sounds such as sirens and horns will be loud enough to get through, but quieter sounds like bicycle bells or car engines are likely to go unheard."
The professor does, however, have some advice for wives who feel ignored.
"Shouting might help," she said.
- Daily Mail