FRIDAY, May 17 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests the
dominant side of your brain may make the call on which ear you
choose to use while talking on your cellphone.
The dominant side of your brain is where your speech and
language center resides. Ninety-five percent of the human
population is left-brain dominant, and those people tend to be
right-handed. The opposite holds true for people who are
right-brain dominant. In this study, scientists found that roughly
70 percent of those surveyed held their cellphone up to the ear
that was on the same side as their dominant hand.
This insight into the way people use their cellphones could one
day help doctors quickly and safely locate and protect a patient's
language center before beginning a potentially risky brain
operation, the researchers said.
"In essence, this could be used as a poor man's Wada test," said study author Dr. Michael Seidman, director of the division of otologic/neurotologic surgery at the Henry Ford Health System in West Bloomfield, Mich. "[The Wada test] is the standard test used today to determine exactly where a surgical patient's language center is located, which is critical information to have if you want to carefully preserve a person's language abilities.
"The Wada test is, however, invasive and risky," Seidman said. "But by looking at how a person uses their cellphone, which side they listen in to, you can get shorthand insight into brain dominance. It's not a foolproof guarantee, but I would say it's a pretty reliable and safe way of going about it."
Seidman and his colleagues reported their findings in the May
issue of the journal
JAMA Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery.
To explore how brain dominance may relate to cellphone handling,
the authors sifted through more than 700 online surveys completed
by people who were members of a web-based otology (hearing)
discussion group, as well as those already undergoing Wada and MRI
testing for various purposes.
Respondents were asked to give information regarding their
cellphone habits, favored hand for executing various tasks (such as
writing, throwing and cellphone handling) and any hearing-loss
issues. Any history of brain, head or neck tumors also was
Ninety percent of those polled were right-handed, and 68 percent
used their right ear, 25 percent used their left ear and 7 percent
used both ears.
The story was similar among the left-handed people: 72 percent
used their left ear, 23 percent used their right ear and 5 percent
used both ears.
The team concluded that there is an association between
cellphone handling habits and brain dominance, with right-ear
cellphone use typically indicating left-brain dominance, and vice
"We're pretty confident in our results," Seidman said. "Basically, if your speech and language centers are in the left side of the brain -- which for most people they are -- a cellphone conversation is going to sound better in your right ear."
"The next question is if this information may help us figure out whether or not cellphone use is associated with cancer risk," he said.
On that front, Seidman suggested that, if there was such an
association, there would be a much greater incidence of right-sided
brain, head and neck cancer than currently is the case, given that
nearly 80 percent of all people use their right ear to talk on
"But the question of cancer risk and cellphone use is very controversial," he said. "We just don't know yet. Much more work needs to be done."
Dr. Joe Verghese, a professor of neurology at the Albert
Einstein College of Medicine, in New York City, suggested that it
remains possible that other variables could influence the way
people choose to handle their cellphones.
"This is certainly a very interesting study," Verghese said. "But it could also be that right-handed people, for example, simply reach for their cellphone with their dominant hand, and then naturally feel more comfortable continuing to keep it and use it on their right side because it would feel awkward to pick up a phone with your right hand and then switch it over to your left side.
"If that's the case, this could actually be about motor dominance more than auditory or language dominance," he said.
For more on left- and right-brain dominance, visit the
American Psychological Association.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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