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What Tone Deafness Is

Updated on April 29, 2012

What is Tone Deafness?

What is tone deafness and is it a real disorder? Tone deafness is when a person does not have the ability to perceive pitch correctly. Tone deafness has nothing to do with deafness-where a person can not hear. A person may have tone deafness when they are singing, for example: at a karaoke bar, and the person may not realize that he or she has tone deafness. The person may be singing songs with other people listening, but the other people can tell, because the singing might be way out-of tune. Tone deafness is known as: Amusia. Tone deafness is also known as a tin ear.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston have found evidence of what they believe causes tone deafness. People with tone deafness may lack a major nerve in the brain that links regions in the brain for sound perception and sound reproduction. Studies have shown that people who are tone deaf may lack a nerve-fiber bundle. This nerve-fiber bundle is known as the superior branch of the arcuate fasciculus in the right brain. 


Amusia is a Medical Term

Amusia is the medical term for tone deafness. Amusia can be congenital or acquired. Amusia is a disorder in which a defect causes a person to not be able to process pitch, and the inability to detect wrong or out-of tune notes. When a person, who is singing, has tone deafness he or she sings out-of tune and if other people are listening then they can hear it quite clearly as out-of tune. If anyone made remarks, the out-of tune singer can tell what they're saying and their tone of voice.

People who think that they may be tone deaf can do research on the Internet or the public library to try to find out if there is something that they can do to over come tone deafness. Sometimes there might not be anything that can be done about tone deafness. Finding the cause of one's own tone deafness could help to over come it. Tone deafness can be congenital (in the uterus) or acquired thorough physical brain damage. Brain damage is a major cause of tone deafness-especially when the right cerebral hemisphere of the brain is damaged causing tone deafness, the inability to read notes, and the inability to play musical instruments.

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