Ear dominance

You know if you are right or left handed, unless you belong to the very select group of naturally ambidextrous people who are equally at ease using their right hand or their left hand for all tasks. There is also mixed handedness, where some tasks are more easily performed with one hand and other tasks more easily with the other hand. But apart from these exceptions to the rule, most people are either right or left handed.

You may also know which leg you prefer, for instance when kicking a ball or when starting to go up or down stairs.But do you know which ear you prefer? Like right or left handedness, most people are either right or left eared. This matters as there is a speech specialisation in the brain, with the majority of people processing language understanding and speech production in the left brain half. As the right ear is directly connected to the left side, this is the most effective ear to understand language and express ourselves through speech.

If we listen to speech mainly through our left ear, then that information will first be received by the right side of the brain. But the right side does not understand language, so the signal needs to be re-routed to the other side, to the left brain-half where our language centres are located. This will take a little time, and that delay may make it more difficult to decipher short sounds or to accurately understand speech.When we are talking we listen to our own voice to give us feedback of how we are speaking. Try talking with your ears well covered. You will not know how loud you are speaking, and most people will also slow down as speaking becomes more difficult. People that mainly use their left ear to listen to their own voice will experience a short delay before they can process the speech, and in some that may lead to more hesitant speech or even a stammer. We now know that it is not so easy to change hand dominance from the left to the right. For over one hundred years many left handed children were forced by teachers to use their right hand for writing. Although many learned to write really well with their right hand, it did not really shift their hand preference. Most professional footballers train their ‘other’ foot to become better, as that gives them more options and skills, but they remain either right or left footed. As far as ear dominance is concerned it is fortunately easier to induce a shift from the left to the right.

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