Attentional enhancements and deficits in deaf populations: An integrative review

Matthew W.G. Dye, Daphne Bavelier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The literature on visual attention in deaf individuals presents two competing views. On one hand, the deficit view proposes that auditory input is necessary for the development of visual attention; on the other hand, the compensation view holds that visual attention reorganizes to allow the individual to compensate for the lack of auditory input. While apparently contradictory, we suggest that these views shed complementary light on the cross-modal reorganization of visual attention after early deafness. First, these two fields of inquiry look at different aspects of attention. The deficit view is mostly supported by studies of allocation of attention in time, whereas the compensation view is backed by studies measuring the allocation of attention across space. Second, they focus on groups of different age and different background. Deficits have been documented mostly in children with mixed hearing loss aetiologies, whereas reorganization has been documented in a less representative, but more homogenous group of Deaf adults. We propose a more integrative view in which early auditory deprivation does not result in better or worse visual attention. Rather, selected aspects of visual attention are modified in various ways along the developmental trajectory as a result of early deafness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-192
Number of pages12
JournalRestorative Neurology and Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Attentional blink
  • Cross modal plasticity
  • Deafness
  • RSVP
  • Spatial attention
  • Temporal segmentation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neurology


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