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Original Article
May 2013

Hemispheric Dominance and Cell Phone Use

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (Dr Seidman), Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, Michigan; Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York (Dr Siegel); and Departments of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (Dr Shah) and Neurology (Dr Bowyer), Wayne State University, Detroit.

JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2013;139(5):466-470. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2013.2889

Importance A thorough understanding of why we hold a cell phone to a particular ear may be of importance when studying the impact of cell phone safety.

Objective To determine if there is an obvious association between sidedness of cell phone use and auditory hemispheric dominance (AHD) or language hemispheric dominance (LHD). It is known that 70% to 95% of the population are right-handed, and of these, 96% have left-brain LHD. We have observed that most people use their cell phones in their right ear.

Design An Internet survey was e-mailed to individuals through surveymonkey.com. The survey used a modified Edinburgh Handedness Inventory protocol. Sample questions surveyed which hand was used to write with, whether the right or left ear was used for phone conversations, as well as whether a brain tumor was present.

Setting General community.

Participants An Internet survey was randomly e-mailed to 5000 individuals selected from an otology online group, patients undergoing Wada testing and functional magnetic resonance imaging, as well as persons on the university listserv, of which 717 surveys were completed.

Main Outcome and Measure Determination of hemispheric dominance based on preferred ear for cell phone use.

Results A total of 717 surveys were returned. Ninety percent of the respondents were right handed, and 9% were left handed. Sixty-eight percent of the right-handed people used the cell phone in their right ear, 25% in the left ear, and 7% had no preference. Seventy-two of the left-handed respondents used their left ear, 23% used their right ear, and 5% had no preference. Cell phone use averaged 540 minutes per month over the past 9 years.

Conclusions and Relevance An association exists between hand dominance laterality of cell phone use (73%) and our ability to predict hemispheric dominance. Most right-handed people have left-brain LHD and use their cell phone in their right ear. Similarly, most left-handed people use their cell phone in their left ear. Our study suggests that AHD may differ from LHD owing to the difference in handedness and cell phone ear use. Literature suggests a possible relationship between cell phone use and cancer. The fact that few tumors were identified in this population does not rule out an association.