Have you ever been cooking in the kitchen, singing at the top of your lungs like no one’s watching, just to have a loved one say your singing is painful and you must be tone-deaf? Well, if this is you, you aren’t alone.
While it may be blown out of proportion by people that think bad singing is the same as being tone-deaf, around 5% of the population actually are. Tone-deafness – or amusia – is a perception problem where a person cannot tell the difference between pitches, and definitely can’t follow a tune.
Currently, scientists aren’t conclusive on why some people simply can’t pick out a note, but studies have shown that subtle variations in the brain’s white matter could be the culprit. Pathways in white matter connect the sound processing region of the brain to the higher processing region, and those with amusia had reduced connectivity efficiency.
Interestingly, amusia can either be present from birth or picked up through an injury to the brain, and it is completely separate from how musical or well-educated you are. So, if you are truly a terrible singer that can’t hit a note, we are sorry to say that it may never change.
Have you ever wondered if you are truly tone-deaf? Luckily, Harvard University released a free, short quiz as part of a long experiment that can test your note perception by asking whether a note is higher or lower than its predecessors.
Take the quiz now and find out: Music Lab tone-deafness quiz