What you feel can influence what you hear, a new study suggests. People were better able to identify aspirated sounds—those requiring a puff of air, like “pa” or “ta”—when the sound was paired with a puff of air on the back of the hand or neck. If that puff of air accompanied non-aspirated sounds likes "ba" or "da," accuracy dropped. The study, published in Nature, adds to the growing body of evidence that multiple senses contribute to seemingly one-sense tasks.
"By demonstrating that the perception of speech is affected by touch, the experiment raises the possibility that one sense could be used as a substitute for another, creating new ways for deaf people to hear," writes Carolyn Y. Johnson of the Boston Globe. "In fact, researchers at MIT are already using this basic idea to develop technology that could one day assist people with hearing impairment." (Read more academic research stories.)