New research establish association between severe vision loss and hearing, with visually impaired less able to accurately judge the distance of nearby sounds, potentially putting them at risk of injury.
Prior research has established that vision loss and partial vision loss have an impact on hearing and the ability to judge distance accurately. Professor Shahina Pardhan, director of the Anglia Ruskin University’s Vision and Eye Research Institute (VERI) and her colleagues from the United Kingdom and India tested 56 participants with different levels of vision loss, presenting them with speech, music and noise stimuli, and different levels of reverberation (echoes).
The findings, published in Scientific Reports, showed that people with severe visual loss judged closer sounds more inaccurately compared to those with less severe vision loss, who in turn, were less accurate compared to people with normal sight. People with severe visual loss judged distant sounds to be twice as far away when compared to normal sighted individuals and judged the rooms to be three times larger compared to control.
“Vision loss means people rely more on their hearing for awareness and safety, communication and interaction, but it was not known how hearing is affected by the severity of partial vision loss,” said Prof Pardhan.
"The results demonstrate that full blindness is not necessary for judged auditory distance and room size to be affected by visual loss, and that changes in auditory perception are systematic and related to the severity of visual loss,” she said.