Listening is a complicated task. It requires sensitive hearing and the ability to process information in a coherent meaning. A study has found that if we add background noise and constant interruptions from other people, the right ear processes the information better.
The researchers’ work indicates that when many things happen and the brain struggles with the cognitive load, both children and adults rely more on their right ear to process and retain the information they hear.
In fact, the study starts with what is known as the dichotic advantage of the right ear. This ability was first described in 1967 . A few years later, the researchers published an article in which they found a dichotomous advantage in the right ear in children between the ages of 5 and 13 years. Soon after, in 1974, it was discovered that increasing the difficulty of listening increases the advantage of the right ear.
Since then, dichotic listening works and tests have focused on the possibility of helping diagnose auditory processing disorders and understanding others that can produce auditory hallucinations, such as schizophrenia itself.
Image: Auburn University
These tests involve feeding two different streams of audio information through headphones, one in each ear. Normally, the transmissions are usually speaking, a voice that reads sentences or series of numbers, and the test subjects have to try to focus on one side (separation) or both (integration), repeating the words.
However, in the new research the authors wanted to determine whether the advantage of the right ear persists even with the kind of background noise and interruptions that humans experience in everyday life, rather than the focused configuration in which they are usually made. evidence of the past. According to Danielle Sacchinelli, one of the authors of the study:
The more we know about listening in demanding environments, and listening in general, there will be better diagnostic tools, auditory management (including hearing aids) and auditory training.
Although it seemed clear that the advantage of the right ear persists in the adult, the authors also wanted to determine to what extent it was maintained.
According to the researchers, children understand and remember much better what is said when they listen with the right ear.
The sounds that enter through this ear are processed by the left side of the brain, which controls speech, the development of language and parts of memory. Each ear listens to separate pieces of information, which are then combined during processing throughout the auditory system.
However, the hearing systems of young children can not classify and separate simultaneous information from both ears. As a result, they rely heavily on their right ear to capture sounds and language, simply because the path is more efficient.
To find out if adults maintained this capacity in the right ear, 41 participants aged between 19 and 28 were asked to complete the tasks of dichotic separation and integration. With each subsequent test, the researchers increased the number of elements (words) in one.
The result? They did not find significant differences between the performance of the left and right ear for the simple memory capacity of an individual. However, when item lists exceeded an individual’s memory span, the participants’ performance improved an average of 8% (some people up to 40%) when they focused on their right ear. According to Aurora Weaver, co-author of the study:
As we get older, we have better control of our attention to process information as a result of maturity and our experience. Conventional research shows that the advantage of the right ear decreases around 13 years, but our results indicate that this is related to the demand of the task.
So, when things start to get difficult in a conversation, the best thing we can do is get closer with our right ear. At that moment their capabilities increase.