Hearing management

Updated 06 December 2017

Race car fans have enhanced hearing abilities

As the Indy 500 unfolds this weekend, diehard race car fans may employ a trick that non-fans can scarcely imagine: They'll actually "see" the difference between the speeding competitors' engines with nothing but their ears.

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As the Indy 500 unfolds this weekend, diehard race car fans may employ a trick that non-fans can scarcely imagine: They'll actually "see" the difference between the speeding competitors' engines with nothing but their ears.

At least, that's what a new study from the Indiana University School of Medicine suggests.

Noting that prior research has revealed trained musicians can develop enhanced listening expertise over time, researchers from IU's department of otolaryngology tested the auditory skills of longtime race fans among 21 people, some of whom were hard core race fans and some of whom had never even been to a racetrack.

How the study was done

At the actual Indianapolis Motor Speedway, participants were exposed to a group of sounds for three seconds apiece, including the engine hum of Formula One cars, Indy cars, NASCAR engines, and motorcycles, and another group of sounds that included tractor noises and other racing sounds.

"We wanted to know if a person with more racing experience could extract more information from a sound than from someone with no experience," co-author Dr. Tonya R. Bergeson-Dana, director of IU's DeVault Otologic Research Laboratory, said.

Bergeson-Dana and her colleagues found that the more often a participant had been to a motor sports event, the better they were at correctly identifying the type of racing vehicle they heard.

However, race "experience" did not improve the listener's overall ability to distinguish between differing environmental sounds or tones, the authors noted.

"This research is interesting because it helps explain how the brain handles auditory information," said Dr Bergeson-Dana. "Musicians develop auditory skills based on years of formal training, but this study shows that people can also develop a form of auditory expertise with only informal experience."

The team plans to continue their work by exploring how such informally acquired expertise might help pit crews and drivers make near-instantaneous decisions when necessary. - (HealthDay News, June 20101)

 

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Hearing Expert

Rene Hornby has been the owner of a private practice in Pretoria since 1999. AuD degree obtained in 2013 at AT Still University Health Science Depart-ment, Arizona. Masters in Communication Pathology at the University of Pretoria, 2003. Remedial Teaching Diploma at Rand University, 1996. Degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at the University of Pretoria, 1993. Owner of a private practice in Pretoria since 1999. Educating the community regarding early identification of hearing problems and screening of new-borns. Providing assistance and services at retirement homes. Part-time lecturer at the University of Pretoria and the University of Limpopo. External examiner at the University of Pretoria and the University of Limpopo. Presenter at conferences and seminars.

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