Matthew, my friend:
Why do I have to turn down the volume on the car radio when I'm doing something like looking for a street address? It's like I can't find what I'm looking for with the radio on. But I can drive okay with the radio on. Does this make sense?
-- Confused, driving around Chula Vista
Waaa! Waaa! Waaa! Sensory overload! Distraction, distraction! Brain log-off! Memory destruct! Way too much input, Confused, and there's plenty of neurological research to explain what's going on. Noise (including organized noise like music) interferes with task performance. Sound does share some brain pathways with visual information. You instinctively reach for the volume knob to allow your head to concentrate on one thing at a time. Tunes, especially loud, bass-thumping numbers, increase stress hormones. If you're partying, being amped on adrenaline and cortisol is called "having fun." If you're late for a meeting and looking for a parking space, it's called stress. The stress also interferes with short-term memory, making it even harder to find that danged house number. You turn down the volume in sheer self-defense. Your brain thanks you.