Friday, December 30, 2005


Coming home from my parents' house, I spent quality time with my nano. In the course of removing and replacing earbuds to listen to the comments and complaints of the spouse and progeny, I reflected that in the darkness I had no idea whether I had correctly placed the L bud in my left ear. The next tune came up, and I pondered whether it felt backwards or lopsided. Should the prominent voice favor my left ear, or my right? Do I even have a dominant ear?

Due to vision problems as a youngster, my right eye is decidely dominant. Thus I am willing to accept the possibility of lopsided perceptual facilities. In a bizarre way, it feels like prominance in stereophonic recordings should start in the back right, moving diagonally to the front left, though still mostly centered. I think the back to front is a coupling of low-to-high pitch with background-to-foreground. And yes, there are background voices that dominate over their brethren in my hierarchy.

Anybody else with ear dominance?


rgable said...

I have some hearing loss in my right ear so my left is clearly dominant. When wearing headphones, center stage is about 30 degrees to the left of the center of my head. If something is only mixed for the right channel, I sometimes notice that I can't hear it very well.

I used to fiddle with the balance on my stereo but with my Nano I just accept it.

Robert Gable

Waterfall said...

I am deaf in my right ear, so I definitely have "dominance." I have to wear both earbuds, though, because the music doesn't "sound" right if I don't have the sound vibrations in both ears.

I'm also left-eye dominant, but right handed. Which makes me very confused. :)

Hope you're enjoying your new Nano as much as I am mine!

Kim said...

Can't resist this one, for it touches upon a fascination of mine. Although most of us have right & left brain hemispheres that are pretty well integrated (more true for women than men, I might say, at the risk of being slammed), music coming in the right ear is processed by the left brain hemisphere and vice versa. Because the right brain (left ear) is far less linear and calculating, music heard by the left ear is perceived in a more organic, less clinical way. I don't know if my own experience confirms this or if I'm playing out a self-fulfilling prophecy. Decades ago I worked with epilepsy patients who had their corpus callosums cut (the tissues that connect the two brain hemispheres), and the ways in which they processed information taken in by eyes or ears on the two sides of the body was dramatically different. (Oops, didn't mean to go on this long...)

Scott Spiegelberg said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. Waterfall, that is very interesting that you need both earbuds. I wonder if some bone conduction is going on, or you aren't completely deaf in your right ear.

Kim, that wasn't too long at all. I've also seen the studies that indicate more integration in women. There was a study last year that suggests right ear=language, left ear=music hard-wiring. In general though, split-brain studies on music have been a wash.

Jennifer Grucza said...

Hmm, I don't know about dominance and all that, but sometimes I switch earphones so that it sounds like I'm sitting in the orchestra, with the cellos to my left and violins to my right.

Scott Spiegelberg said...

Jennifer, that is an interesting approach.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I came upon this blog because I was trying to find info about an interesting thing I noticed.

I recently started a new job where I share an office with a person who is on the phone a lot, while I do a lot of reading and research. So I decided to listen to music to not be distracted. But when I brought my headphones to work, I realized that one of the earphones was out (specifically, the left). I almost immediately came to realize that if I had the working earbud in my right ear, I could not concentrate on my work, but moving the working earbud to my left ear, I was able to work, read, etc. with no problems. (if it's of any consequence, I am cross-dominant, like a previous poster, except I am right hand and eye dominant, but left-footed)

Anyway, I thought that was an interesting comment that the right ear processes language while the left ear processes music. Does anyone have any more info on this or any other speculations? I'd be excited to hear them!


Bryan said...

I have little to add but much to gain on this topic. I, too, have noticed a huge cognitive difference between what I hear in my right ear vs. what I hear in my left. For instance, if I put the phone to my left ear for a conversation, I'm slower to sort the information. More interesting: If I sing with headphones cupped over my right ear, I have no problem remembering lyrics -- but if I sing with the phones cupped over my left ear, I need to read the lyrics, but my pitch is better, and the emotional content of the performance is generally better.

I'm really interested in knowing more about the experience of others.