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The accuracy of auditory spatial judgments in the visually impaired is dependent on sound source distance

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Raman, Rajiv 
Cirstea, Silvia 
Gopalakrishnan, Sarika 


Abstract: Blindness leads to substantial enhancements in many auditory abilities, and deficits in others. It is unknown how severe visual losses need to be before changes in auditory abilities occur, or whether the relationship between severity of visual loss and changes in auditory abilities is proportional and systematic. Here we show that greater severity of visual loss is associated with increased auditory judgments of distance and room size. On average participants with severe visual losses perceived sounds to be twice as far away, and rooms to be three times larger, than sighted controls. Distance estimates for sighted controls were most accurate for closer sounds and least accurate for farther sounds. As the severity of visual impairment increased, accuracy decreased for closer sounds and increased for farther sounds. However, it is for closer sounds that accurate judgments are needed to guide rapid motor responses to auditory events, e.g. planning a safe path through a busy street to avoid collisions with other people, and falls. Interestingly, greater visual impairment severity was associated with more accurate room size estimates. The results support a new hypothesis that crossmodal calibration of audition by vision depends on the severity of visual loss.


Funder: This research was supported by the Vision and Eye Research Institute, School of Medicine at Anglia Ruskin University.


Article, /631/378/2649/1723, /631/477/2811, /129, article

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Scientific Reports

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Nature Publishing Group UK