It is well-known that the majority of humans have left-right preferences when using their hands or feet. But it is perhaps less well-known that the same can be true for our eyes and ears.

I once heard of a simple test to check whether I was left-eyed or right-eyed. In a room, quickly turn your head to look up to a corner where the ceiling meets the two walls. Then close each eye in turn, and you should find that only one eye is aimed straight at the corner.

I have no idea how reliable this test is, or how strongly people tend to prefer one eye to the other. But assuming there's something in it, I wonder whether anyone knows of (or can devise) a similarly simple test for the ears?

  • $\begingroup$ To which ear do you hold your phone? Or is that a test of handedness? $\endgroup$ Jun 7, 2015 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtemKaznatcheev. My hunch would be that hand preference is generally stronger than ear preference, so it might not be an effective test. Having said that, if a right-handed person is forced to pick up the phone with their left hand, do they still try to hold it to their right ear? I've certainly seen lots of people do that, and I'm sure I do it myself - but is that really evidence of earedness, or just ingrained habits? $\endgroup$
    – ekhumoro
    Jun 7, 2015 at 15:07

2 Answers 2


The Lateral Preference Inventory

Coren (1993) developed an inventory for lateral preference (The Lateral Preference Inventory). Several items concerned ear preference.

I found the choice of items to be quite interesting. See below for the items concerned with ear preference.

earedness items

Based on a large adult normative sample, a total score was created for the four items above (+1 for right; -1 for left; 0 for either)

ear preference norms

Ear preference tasks

This is not my area, but I did a quick search on Google Scholar and found an article by Noonan and Axelrod (1981) where they discuss behavioural measures of ear preference.

A total of 373 normal young adult subjects were distributed among 5 experiments measuring earedness. Handedness, eyedness and familial L-handedness were also indexed. Special care was taken to remove environmental asymmetries when determining ear preference when listening to sound from a suspended earphone, and from a stopwatch on a table, and for using a telephone symmetrically constructed and displayed. Ear preference was strongly influenced by seemingly minor environmental asymmetries and did not influence telephone habits, and must be considered a very weak lateral preference. Earedness was as concordant with handedness as eyedness was found to be; earedness was concordant with handedness in 74% of dextrals and 65% of sinistrals, but earedness was not related to eyedness. Earedness did not vary with putatively hemisphere-specific stimulus types (music, speech). Laterality of telephone use was jointly determined by handedness and the expectation of writing, not by earedness.


  • Coren, S. (1993). The lateral preference inventory for measurement of handedness, footedness, eyedness, and earedness: Norms for young adults. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 31(1), 1-3.
  • Noonan, M., & Axelrod, S. (1981). Earedness (ear choice in monaural tasks): its measurement and relationship to other lateral preferences. The Journal of auditory research, 21(4), 263-277.
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think the Cohen inventory is useful, because the tasks are far too strongly influenced by handedness and footedness (i.e. reaching for, or leaning towards, an object), and they do not measure behaviour directly. The Noonan/Axelrod paper is far more useful, and it confirmed all of my hunches. But, sadly, it does not answer my question. Rather it seems to undermine my question, by highlighting the difficulty of eliminating environmental influences, and/or other lateral preferences. Earedness seems to be a quite weak preference, and so a simple self-test might not be possible. $\endgroup$
    – ekhumoro
    Jun 8, 2015 at 17:03
  • $\begingroup$ @ekhumoro That sounds like a good synopsis. I imagine there's more research out there. Perhaps check out scholar.google.com/scholar?q=earedness $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2015 at 1:54

Dichotic listening task can be helpful to identify if someone has right ear advantage (REA) or LEA.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Where might someone go to get enough information on dichotic listening task to be useful in OP's situation? $\endgroup$
    – Krysta
    Jun 11, 2015 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ Hugdahl, K. (1995). Dichotic listening: Probing temporal lobe functional integrity. Brain asymmetry, 1:123–56. Hugdahl, K. (2003). Dichotic listening in the study of auditory laterality. The asymmetrical brain, 1:441–475. Tervaniemi, M. and Hugdahl, K. (2003). Lateralization of auditory-cortex functions. Brain Research Reviews, 43(3):231–246. $\endgroup$ Jun 11, 2015 at 20:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Please incorporate that into your answer :) $\endgroup$ Jun 12, 2015 at 0:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.