My Greatest Fear #56: Putting Headphones on the Wrong Ears

A few weeks ago I was a guest on a podcast, and they asked me to use headphones instead of my speakers. I have a good mic that doesn’t pick up the speakers, but I didn’t know the podcasters, so I didn’t want to argue about it. So I pulled out my headphones.

When I put them on, I did something almost subconsciously–as rarely as I use headphones, it was still a force of habit: I checked to make sure R was on my right and L was on my left.

As I did it, I made a mental note about, because it seems like a strange thing to do. I mean, is there really much of a difference if you wear the headphones the wrong way? Probably not to my untrained ears.

Yet I realized I have an underlying fear that putting headphones on the wrong way will result in some kind of pain or disorientation. This is completely irrational, of course, and it’s not something I dwell on, but the thought has crossed my mind that if the L is on the right side, it’ll confuse my inner ear somehow. Maybe I’ll get vertigo from it! I’ve heard that sucks.

It’s one of those things where I’m like, it probably doesn’t matter, but just in case….

Do you put headphones on the correct ears? Why or why not?

8 thoughts on “My Greatest Fear #56: Putting Headphones on the Wrong Ears”

  1. Absolutely! Most sound recordings are done in stereo (usually hi-fi nowadays) and mixed in such a way post-production for it to be best understood by the brain when listened to properly (R in right ear, L in left). Otherwise, the balance is totally off.

    • But does it cause your brain to implode if you wear the headphones the wrong way? That’s my primary concern.

  2. Most headphones are shaped to fit your head facing the right direction. In theory it could cause you physical pain to wear them backwards, especially for prolonged periods. Also the way it shoots the sound into your ear holes, or direction of the drivers, will be backwards and aim at the wrong part of your ear so you won’t be getting the best audio quality out of them. I like headphones with the cable on one side so I never have to check. As long as the cable is on my left I’m good.

  3. I’d imagine it largely depends on what you’re listening to. For games, films, and other directional stuff? Absolutely makes a huge difference, since a lot of those when mixed for stereo will be giving directional information about the source of sounds by how they play them; for a podcast or Skype conversation? Little to no difference.

  4. Jamey,

    As far as “greatest fear” goes…if this is it, you’re doing alright.




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