We found that when volunteers were performing the demanding visual task, they were unable to hear sounds that they would normally hear, said study co-author Maria Chait from University College London (UCL).

Researchers examined brain scans of 13 volunteers to find that when they were engaged in a demanding visual task, the brain response to sound was significantly reduced. 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," Chait added.

The phenomenon of 'in attentional deafness', where we fail to notice sounds when concentrating on other things, has more serious implications in situations such as the operating theater, where a surgeon concentrating on their work might not hear the equipment pedestrians engaging with their phone, for example texting while walking, are also prone to in attentional deafness. The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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