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Saturday, February 20, 2016

Closing Eyes To Hear Better

Here's an odd one...I close my eyes if I need to hear something better.
I've done this for most of my career so it's something that I picked up early on.  Sometimes I'm trying to hear a subtle noise in the heart or lungs and there are people talking, machines whirring, or pets barking near me.  Sometimes I'll take the pet into a quiet room if I'm really having problems.  But I start by closing my eyes and focusing on the sounds.
Maybe someone can explain scientifically why this works.  I firmly believe that it does!  Perhaps it's psychosomatic, but closing my eyes seems to eliminate many of the distractions and helps me better isolate minor changes in sounds.  It really seems like it shouldn't matter since your eyes obviously don't have anything to do with your hearing.  Maybe by eliminating one sense the brain can concentrate on the other senses.  At least, that makes sense to me!  I've often heard that deaf people have more acute hearing and touch as they are more dependent on their non-visual senses.  However, I don't know if this is actually true or just an old wives' tale.
I've noticed a few other people doing this as well.  A couple of my staff do and I recently worked with another doctor who does the same thing.  So it's not just me!  If other people do the same thing there must be some truth to the practice.
If anyone in the medical profession does this or has seen people do this, let me know!  I'd love to hear from other oddballs out there.


  1. I have always closed my eyes or stared down at my belly while ausculting. I actually had an instructor in veterinary school that recommended it for the same reason you cite: it removes one sense to allow the brain to concentrate on another.

  2. Yup! I'm a vet nurse, and who auscultating, I close my eyes too. Definitely makes it easier to concentrate on those subtle sounds.

  3. I'm a veterinary nurse in human nursing school (it all crosses over! I'm so glad I had my original training!) and my instructors were very clear about this advice. They specifically told us if it's hard to auscult due to distractions, or the patient has quiet sounds, or you're using a crappy, borrowed school stethoscope, or whatever--always close your eyes. It makes a huge difference.

  4. My vet, Sue MacInnes, also closes her eyes while ascultating.

  5. I often do this--and here is my theory (not based on any scientific evidence, though). I believe that by closing our eyes we eliminate the visual input, and therefore our brain is able to focus more on the listening. Kind of the same as closing your eyes when meditating--you can be more aware of the small noises that are around you.


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