The P3a observed after novel events is an event-related potential comprising an early fronto-central phase and a late fronto-parietal phase. It has classically been considered to reflect the attention processing of distracting stimuli. However, novel sounds can lead to behavioral facilitation as much as behavioral distraction. This illustrates the duality of the orienting response which includes both an attentional and an arousal component. Using a paradigm with visual or auditory targets to detect and irrelevant unexpected distracting sounds to ignore, we showed that the facilitation effect by distracting sounds is independent of the target modality and endures more than 1500 ms. These results confirm that the behavioral facilitation observed after distracting sounds is related to an increase in unspecific phasic arousal on top of the attentional capture. Moreover, the amplitude of the early phase of the P3a to distracting sounds positively correlated with subjective arousal ratings, contrary to other event-related potentials. We propose that the fronto-central early phase of the P3a would index the arousing properties of distracting sounds and would be linked to the arousal component of the orienting response. Finally, we discuss the relevance of the P3a as a marker of distraction. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.