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Topic: Right/Left ear - equal/selective hearing?

  1. #1

    Right/Left ear - equal/selective hearing?

    Do we hear music differently with each ear?

    I haven’t done any research on this, but lately, from my own experience, I have started to wonder if our ears hear the tones ranges in a selective way…

    Does a pianist hear his playing in a different way than a violinist or flutist?

    The piano is built in such a way that the player’s right ear is closer to the higher keys while his left ear is closer to the lower keys.
    Is this coincidence, or was the first ‘piano’ constructed intentionally in such a way because a certain natural phenomenon dictated the direction of lower to higher tones?
    Does it mean that a pianist hears the tones differently with each ear?

    On the other hand, a flutist’s ears are at the same distance and location from the sounds produced.
    Does it mean that a flutist hears the tones equally with both ears?

    Or… does it have to do with a person’s natural inclination, like right/left handedness, gender, age etc.?


  2. #2

    Re: Right/Left ear - equal/selective hearing?

    My guess would be that the ears develop equally in the womb but change as they grow into their environment.

    I know the frequency response in my ears is different (I had them tested ). It's probably the result of playing in a big band with a loud trumpet player on my left and a drummer on my right.

    But I'm curious too, if, say, sleeping preferentially on one side affects how our ears change over time.

  3. #3

    Re: Right/Left ear - equal/selective hearing?

    Don't forget the effect of driving with your window down for your left ear (right ear, for you Aussies, Brits, Kiwis, Japanese, and whoever else I missed.)


  4. #4

    Re: Right/Left ear - equal/selective hearing?

    I think you'll really like this.

    Here is the main site: http://deutsch.ucsd.edu/

    and here are some musical illusions: http://philomel.com/musical_illusions/
    -Keith Fuller

    iMac Quad i7 * MacBook Pro * Logic Studio 9 * WD 320GB & 1TB Externals@7,200RPM * Presonus Firebox * M-Audio Axiom 25 & Keystation 61 * Rode NT1-A * Epiphone Hollowbody * Fender Amp * KRK Rokit 8's

  5. #5

    Re: Right/Left ear - equal/selective hearing?

    So if u know you have a lot of fans who are lefties, u might wanna consider making a special "lefty" mix, to cater to their differing perceptions in music.

  6. #6

    Re: Right/Left ear - equal/selective hearing?

    k, that post came out looking way too serious. It needed a .

  7. #7

    Re: Right/Left ear - equal/selective hearing?

    Never noticed a left/right difference but this reminds me of another (most certainly harmful) experiment.

    I was in a bell tower when a 6-foot bell started doing what bells do best. I had to stick fingers in my ears at once, of course. Then I noticed that if I remove only one finger and keep the other ear plugged, I could listen to the bell at point-blank range with no discomfort. If I removed both, it would start to hurt at once.

    (Yes, I was rewarded for that experiment by a ringing in my ears that lasted for a week. Don't try this at home, kids)

  8. #8
    Senior Member rwayland's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    California Redwoods

    Re: Right/Left ear - equal/selective hearing?

    Well, I have a slightly higher sensitivity in the left ear. I rarely drive with my window down, can't blame that. Some slight exposure to disco music in the early seventies, which could be considered similar to sacrificing a queen to gain a a checkmate. But the problem existed before that. I have always considered it related to being struck on the weaker ear by a baseball when I was six. But lately, I thought about the great difference in my eyes. The right eye requires a very large correction, the left merely a large correction. The relationship has been the same all my life. It may be relevant that there is a difference of more than an inch between my left and right sides. In any case, it presents no problems to my hearing, which is still quite good.

    When I was younger, I heard the sound of the horizontal oscillator in a TV, which was painful.

    But I have heard of persons who hear sounds at different pitches in the ears, sometimes a half tone or more difference.


  9. #9

    Re: Right/Left ear - equal/selective hearing?

    Quote Originally Posted by keithjfuller View Post
    I think you'll really like this.

    Here is the main site: http://deutsch.ucsd.edu/

    and here are some musical illusions: http://philomel.com/musical_illusions/

    Wow, thats cool stuff, but...err...half of them dont work on me! The octave, scale and chromatic scales all sound as they should (as written)... Perhaps cos Im a lefty. It does say that leftys hear it in a wider variety of ways.

    Im pretty certain that my right ear is a teeny bit more sensitive than my left, only because in my music things always tend to be coming slightly more from the right channel, even when panned dead centre in mono. I should really get them tested sometime...

  10. #10

    Re: Right/Left ear - equal/selective hearing?

    It's funny. I was just thinking about this myself, since I suffered a hearing loss affecting two frequencies in my right ear. I am editing a film that I made in college. I recently had trasferred to video and I'm digitally re-recording the narration and most of the music. Since some of the sound is irreplacable and mixed for mono, I decided the safest thing to do was to do the final mix as mono.

    This got me thinking about my music. Can I trust my own ears when the final mix down is stereo? Am I unconsciously boosting the frequencies that I can't hear well in my right ear and making it sound unnatural to those with no hearing loss?

    I also have an extremely high sensitivity to high pitched sounds. (For example, I can hear dog whistles). I'm wondering if I am subconsciously rolling them off (if the overtones annoy me - like a small triangle tremelo) or using them too much, if I find them pleasing (like a high piccolo or violin line).

    It's an odd feeling. I am an actor by profession. I also worked as a film editor for a while. I trust my sense of timing and pacing. I have less confidence in my sense of pitch and frequency. In the old analog days, you just rolled off the top in most cases anyway because there was always some tape hiss and that took out some of the highs. But with digital its a little trickier.

    I'm wondering if there is a safe range to use as a guide. You know, like there are safe areas marked on video editing monitors to show where the image can get cut off and rounded by old analog TVs, or the video assist monitor in films where you can see the correct aspect ratio?

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