Can you really listen more closely with your eyes closed?

Can you really listen more closely with your eyes closed?

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Myth on the test bench: listening more concentrated with closed eyes?

It is often said that people can listen more closely when they close their eyes. What is the point of this claim? Neuroscientists at the University of Lübeck have now put this myth to the test.

Many people close their eyes to listen intently. But do we actually hear better with our eyes closed than with our eyes open? To answer this question, scientists at the Institute of Psychology at the University of Lübeck examined the brain waves while listening with open and closed eyes.

Just listen to a female or a male voice

According to a message, the participants in the study heard number words in the laboratory, which were spoken alternately by a male and a female voice.

The subjects had the task of listening to only one of the two voices and ignoring the other. According to the information, this task was accomplished with both open and closed eyes.

In the meantime, the researchers used 64 small electrodes on the surface of the head to derive the participants' brain waves using electroencephalography (EEG).

The study results were published in the journal "Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience".

The rhythmic ups and downs of the alpha waves have been significantly increased

The scientists quickly found a clear pattern in the brainwaves: “Whenever the study participants listened carefully, the size of the so-called alpha waves increased with about 10 vibrations per second. When we listened, the alpha waves became smaller again, ”explains study leader Dr. Painted Wöstmann.

The study participants were able to significantly increase the rhythmic ups and downs of the alpha waves by closing their eyes.

Closing the eyes thus ensures a clearer separation of relevant and disruptive acoustic signals in the brain.

No panacea for better hearing

But what about the myth that our listening performance can be increased with our eyes closed?

Contrary to this myth, the closing of the eyes in this experiment had no influence on how well the test subjects were able to indicate after the listening task whether individual numerical words had to be observed beforehand or not.

In a further experiment, the researchers confirmed this result: In the background noise, the participants recognized a soft tone with open eyes as well as with closed eyes.

So do the researchers advise against closing your eyes when listening? "Not necessarily," says psychologist Lea-Maria Schmitt.

“If you are good at listening closely to concentrated listening, then you should. However, our research clearly shows that closing the eyes is in no way a panacea for increasing objective hearing performance. ”(Ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • University of Lübeck: Listening more concentrated ?, (accessed: January 22, 2020), University of Lübeck
  • Wöstmann, M., Schmitt, L.-M., & Obleser, J .: Does Closing the Eyes Enhance Auditory Attention? Eye Closure Increases Attentional Alpha-Power Modulation but Not Listening Performance; in: Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, (published: December 30, 2019), Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

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