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Temporary blindness can help your hearing improve

A week of temporary blindness may help to tune up your hearing - a phenomenon dubbed the "Ray Charles effect", scientists believe.

In tests, researchers found that keeping mice in the dark for several days rewired circuits in the brain and improved their hearing.

They expect humans to respond the same way because the neural wiring involved in both species is similar.

Legendary soul singer and pianist Ray Charles, who died in 2004, was completely blind from the age of seven.

The new research suggests lack of sight may have enhanced the hearing sensitivity of talented musicians such as Charles and fellow blind star Stevie Wonder. Scientists in the US showed how neural connections in the brain that manage vision and hearing work together to support each sense. The findings, published in the journal Neuron, could lead to new ways of helping people with hearing loss and tinnitus - distressing "ringing" in the ears.

Dr Hey-Kyoung Lee, a leading member of the team from the Mind/Brain Institute at the Johns Hopkins University, said: "In my opinion, the coolest aspect of our work is that the loss of one sense - vision - can augment the processing of the remaining sense, in this case, hearing, by altering the brain circuit, which is not easily done in adults.

"By temporarily preventing vision, we may be able to engage the adult brain to now change the circuit to better process sound, which can be helpful for recovering sound perception in patients with cochlear implants."

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