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Auditory Preference Linked to Brain Dominance

Auditory Preference Linked to Brain DominanceA new study suggests a strong correlation between brain dominance and the ear used to listen to a cell phone.

Researchers discovered if you’re a left brain thinker, chances are you use your right hand to hold your cell phone up to your right ear.

Investigators determined more than 70 percent of participants hold their cell phone up to the ear on the same side as their dominant hand.

Left brain-dominant people — those whose speech and language center is on the left side of the brain – are more likely to use their right hand for writing and other everyday tasks.

Likewise, the Henry Ford study shows most left brain-dominant people also use the phone in their right ear, despite there being no perceived difference in their hearing in the left or right ear. And, right brain dominant people are more likely to use their left hand to hold the phone in their left ear.

Researchers believe these simple discoveries will help expand scientific knowledge on brain functions.

“Our findings have several implications, especially for mapping the language center of the brain,” says Michael Seidman, M.D., FACS.

“By establishing a correlation between cerebral dominance and sidedness of cell phone use, it may be possible to develop a less-invasive, lower-cost option to establish the side of the brain where speech and language occurs rather than the Wada test, a procedure that injects an anesthetic into the carotid artery to put half of the brain to sleep in order to map activity.”

Seidman notes that the study also may offer additional evidence that cell phone use and brain, and head and neck tumors may not be linked. He believes that if the link to cancer were significant, then more tumors would be found on the right side of their brain, head and neck – the dominant side for cell phone use.

However, he does believe that it’s likely that there is a time and “dose-dependence” to the development of tumors.

Study results will be presented in San Diego at the 25th Mid-Winter Meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology.

The research began with the observation that most people use their right hand to hold a cell phone to their right ear. This practice, Seidman said, is illogical since it is challenging to listen on the phone with the right ear and take notes with the right hand.

To determine the association between sidedness of cell phone use and auditory or language hemispheric dominance, the researchers developed a online survey using modifications of the Edinburgh Handedness protocol, a tool used for more than 40 years to assess handedness and predict cerebral dominance.

Researchers included questions about which hand was used for tasks such as writing; time spent talking on cell phone; whether the right or left ear is used to listen to phone conversations; and if respondents had been diagnosed with a brain or head and neck tumor.

The survey was distributed to 5,000 individuals who were either with an otology online group or a patient undergoing Wada and MRI for non-invasive localization purposes. More than 700 responded to the online survey.

Investigators discovered that on average, respondents’ cell phone usage was 540 minutes per month.

The majority of respondents (90 percent) were right-handed, 9 percent were left handed and 1 percent were ambidextrous. Among those who are right-handed, 68 percent reported that they hold the phone to their right ear, while 25 percent used the left ear and 7 percent used both right and left ears.

For those who are left-handed, 72 percent said they used their left ear for cell phone conversations, while 23 percent used their right ear and 5 percent had no preference.

As would be expected, researchers discovered that having a hearing difference can impact ear preference for cell phone use.

Source: Henry Ford Hospital

Man talking on a cell phone photo by shutterstock.

Auditory Preference Linked to Brain Dominance

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Auditory Preference Linked to Brain Dominance. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 22 Feb 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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