Why do I prefer to listen to music in my right ear?

05 June 2011


Hi Alison Wilathgamuwa (pronounced Wilath-gam-uwa, easy when broken down into syllables lol) from Perth Western Australia.
I use headphone ear buds for my audio devices, computer etc. Eventually over time one side of the ear bud headphones will stop working forcing me to buy a new pair. Until I can make it to the department store to replace the broken headphones I continue to use the broken headphones but strangely have noticed that I prefer to have the working ear bud headphone in my right ear only every time and dislike listening in my left ear. I generally find it hard to concentrate on for example a podcast if heard only through my left but not my right. Why would this be?  


Chris - What you've done Alison is to very, very elegantly demonstrate and recreate the work of a lovely lady from Canada called Doreen Kimura, who used something called the dichotic listening test to show the dominance of one side of your brain over the other in decoding language. What you do is you play two different sounds into the right and left ear simultaneously and specifically, you play language. You ask the person, "What do you hear?" Or to report what they've been listening to and you'll find they pay much attention to what's going in their right ear when it's language than in their left ear. The left ear is better at decoding music.

This is because the nervous system is all crossed over. So things that go on on the right of you get presented to the left side of your brain, things that go on on the left of you tend to get presented to the right side of your brain. So if you feed language, because your music has got lots of spoken words in it, into the right ear, most of it is getting presented to your left brain which is where your language centre is, so therefore, it's preferable to listen via that route. Beautiful question.

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