Underwater Acoustic Source Localisation Among Blind and Sighted Scuba Divers : Comparative study

Jacopo Cambi, Ludovica Livi, Walter Livi


Objectives: Many blind individuals demonstrate enhanced auditory spatial discrimination or localisation of sound sources in comparison to sighted subjects. However, this hypothesis has not yet been confirmed with regards to underwater spatial localisation. This study therefore aimed to investigate underwater acoustic source localisation among blind and sighted scuba divers. Methods: This study took place between February and June 2015 in Elba, Italy, and involved two experimental groups of divers with either acquired (n = 20) or congenital (n = 10) blindness and a control group of 30 sighted divers. Each subject took part in five attempts at an under-water acoustic source localisation task, in which the divers were requested to swim to the source of a sound originating from one of 24 potential locations. The control group had their sight obscured during the task. Results: The congenitally blind divers demonstrated significantly better underwater sound localisation compared to the control group or those with acquired blindness (P = 0.0007). In addition, there was a significant correlation between years of blindness and underwater sound localisation (P <0.0001). Conclusion:Congenital blindness was found to positively affect the ability of a diver to recognise the source of a sound in an underwater environment. As the correct localisation of sounds underwater may help individuals to avoid imminent danger, divers should perform sound localisation tests during training sessions.


Blindness; Auditory Perception; Sound Localization; Spatial Processing; Diving.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18295/squmj.2016.17.02.006


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Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, PO Box 35, Postal Code 123, Al-Khod, Muscat, Oman

ISSN (Print edition): 2075-051X ISSN (Internet edition): 2075-0528

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