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Looming Sounds

May 28, 2009

Being in good physical condition could actually be detrimental to your hearing.


Sound in motion. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

How quickly you react to a startling sound could be related to your physical fitness. This according to evolutionary psychologist John Neuhoff at The College of Wooster in Ohio. He and his colleagues tested how quickly people react to a loud sound that is moving toward them. They found that people who were in better shape responded more slowly to the sound. Neuhoff says this makes sense from an evolutionary perspective, because weaker people would have benefitted from more lead time to escape a predator.

JOHN NEUHOFF (The College of Wooster):
The more susceptible you are to being someone’s prey, the more advance warning you’d need from the auditory system. You want a warning that’s scaled to the ability of your body to get out of the way of this moving sound source.

His team plans to test whether improving people’s physical fitness decreases that reaction time. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.