Avoid drinking any liquid while reading this - I almost spit out my coffee, laughing.
For as long as she could remember a 60-year-old British woman, known only as KH, has been unable to recognize voices, not even the voice of her own daughter. Unless she sees the face of the person speaking, she often has no idea who is talking to her. If her daughter calls on the phone, or an unseen colleague from work says something to her, it’s as if she’s hearing the voice for the first time.Please don't misunderstand me - I am not laughing at the woman's distress or the surely taxing effects on KH and her family.
Except when Sean Connery speaks.
But Sean Connery? Really?
The comments at the end of the article are predictable - Mike from Florida offers, "My wife has a similar affliction. She acknowledges everyone's voice but mine." Dan from Utah responds, "No Mike, that's called spousignorinya. It's a common affliction among married men." I particularly enjoyed Peter's comment, hearing Connery's brogue as I read it: "Shhh-acrilege!"
KH stumbled upon a possible answer in a magazine article on a neurological defect called prosopagnosia - face blindness - in which people have extreme difficulty recognizing faces. An MRI came up negative for any structural defects or injuries, so doctors at University College London ran some tests to see if KH could recognize faces, voices, emotions, music and overall perception of speech.
For those who are just as intrigued as I was to the reason for KH's affinity for the former Bond, read on:
Apparently KH is the first documented case of someone born without the ability to detect familiar voices - also called phonagnosia, typical in the aftermath of a stroke, the article says. Development phonagnosia in an inborn defect whose cause is still unknown.Duchaine is doing more research with KH and has actually asked others who think they might be phonagnosic to contact him through a Web site. He says five or six people have called. Duchaine expects to find that developmental phonagnosia may not be all that uncommon. In comparison, he says in the article, developmental face blindness appeared to be very rare ten years ago, but it’s now known that many people cope with it.
Duchaine and Garrido exposed KH to the voices of famous people with distinctive voices. Actress Joanna Lumley (known best in the U.S. for her role in the British comedy series “Absolutely Fabulous”), former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and David Beckham were easily tagged by a group of people participating in the research, although none of them rang a bell for KH.
Only one of the voices perked up her ears with recognition: the unmistakable Scottish burr of actor Sean Connery, the original James Bond.
"His accent is distinctive," Duchaine explained. "And she is a British woman in her sixties…let’s say it’s probable he got her attention."
My question: If I had to pick only one person's voice to recognize, who would it be?