Prevalence of congenital amusia

Eur J Hum Genet. 2017 May;25(5):625-630. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2017.15. Epub 2017 Feb 22.

Abstract

Congenital amusia (commonly known as tone deafness) is a lifelong musical disorder that affects 4% of the population according to a single estimate based on a single test from 1980. Here we present the first large-based measure of prevalence with a sample of 20 000 participants, which does not rely on self-referral. On the basis of three objective tests and a questionnaire, we show that (a) the prevalence of congenital amusia is only 1.5%, with slightly more females than males, unlike other developmental disorders where males often predominate; (b) self-disclosure is a reliable index of congenital amusia, which suggests that congenital amusia is hereditary, with 46% first-degree relatives similarly affected; (c) the deficit is not attenuated by musical training and (d) it emerges in relative isolation from other cognitive disorder, except for spatial orientation problems. Hence, we suggest that congenital amusia is likely to result from genetic variations that affect musical abilities specifically.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Auditory Perceptual Disorders / diagnosis
  • Auditory Perceptual Disorders / epidemiology
  • Auditory Perceptual Disorders / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors

Supplementary concepts

  • Tune Deafness

Grant support