The next time your wife accuses you of not listening to her while you're watching the game, reading the paper or surfing the internet on your iPhone, you can tell her you've been stricken with inattentional deafness. It's not your fault you can't hear her. God made you that way. Your brain is wired to turn down the noise while your brain focuses on important visual stimuli. So says the research titled Visual perceptial load induces inattentional deafness reported in the journal Attention, Perception & Psychophysics.
What does that mean? In a nutshell, it means the brain is not made to multitask audio and visual tasks. The harder the visual task, the less able the brain is to process unrelated audio information (task irrelevant information). As relevant as your wife is, what she has to say isn't, in the eyes of your brain, while it focuses on a replay of that last dropped ball.
I thinks this study is fascinationing and has big implications for hospital care. What does it mean for doctor-nurse communication? It means failure to hear the pager go off twenty times a day is normal. It means the hospitalist is not a jerk because he doesn't promptly answer his pages. Brains are wired to ignore task irrelevant noises (pages from nurses) while they are engaged in highly complex visual activities (patient care). I would presume the more complex the patients, the less likely the hospitalist is to return the page. This explains the missing page phenomenon.
What's the solution? I have no idea. Maybe The Joint Commission, in their ultimate wisdom, will require nurses to hunt down the hospitalist and act out their question or request with a bedside hand puppet show. Nothing like a good hand puppet show to draw in the full attention of a hospitalist.