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Scientists have discovered how visual impairment affects the perception of sounds
The impression of the distance to the sound source and the size of the room can be deceiving if vision is severely impaired.
Photo: Mike Behnken / Flickr
When vision is impaired, it is much more difficult for people to assess the distance from which a sound is heard. Scientists believe this increases the risk of injury. A new study by scientists at the University of England Ruskin is published in Scientific Reports.
Scientists have tested how people with varying degrees of visual impairment assess the sound environment. They were asked to listen to speech, music, various types of noise and echo. Participants had to determine the distance to the sound source and the size of the room.
The characteristics of close sounds were most accurately given by people with normal vision; as their vision deteriorated, the participants rated them worse and worse. For those with maximum visual impairment, the distance to the sources of distant sounds seemed twice as large as for people with normal vision.
People with severe visual impairment also had a different view of the size of the room: it seemed to them three times as large as the participants with normal vision in the control group.
The study authors point out that it was previously known that people with complete blindness rely more on hearing, and with it, the perception of the characteristics of sounds can be distorted. A new discovery was how different degrees of visual impairment affect the perception of sound.