I have low-grade Microtia - meaning that my ear canal is congenitally blocked (and the external ear somewhat under-developed). Over the years I've used mostly over-ear headphones: I can hang them on both my ears fine, and I either mix both channels together, or change the balance to favor the right ear and increase the volume (although, frankly, that creates a distortion, since I pick up the frequencies that pass through the bone at normal levels).

In recent years, in-ear and 'button'-type earphones been gaining in popularity, and often those are the only ones you have, say, on an airplane. Now, I can manage to use these - just putting on side of the earphones in my left ear, and letting the other side dangle. But that's annoying and they sometime fall off if I'm not careful.

My question is: Assuming there are no "single-ear-earphones", and assuming you want something as compact as regular in-ear/button earphones, what would you suggest I do? Does it make sense to cut off one of a pair of earphones? can they be disassembled (at least in some models) so that you only get one side? Is there a way to get a downmix-to-mono effect? Maybe there are other ideas I haven't thought of?

  • A simple piece of hardware would be a good starting point: an in-line mono mixer is just a Y with the stem connected to the right channel on a female jack and a resistor in each arm of half the impedance of the 'phones (this is not always easy to find out) connected to the two channels of a male jack - the common terminals would of course be connected. The wiring would easily fit in a small sleeve with the female jack at one end and a flying lead to the male at the other. This would give you a balanced mono output in your right ear, whether or not you can adjust the balance at source. – AFH Oct 14 '16 at 23:06
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    Why do you assume there are no single ear earphones? Every newscaster and talk show host uses one. Have you researched earphones/headphones that use bone conduction? Also, latest item (not sure it's in the marketplace yet): a device you wear like a watch. You put your finger on your head and hear the sound via bone conduction. newatlas.com/sgnl-smart-strap/45190 – fixer1234 Oct 15 '16 at 2:18
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    @fixer1234: Could you make that an answer please? – einpoklum Oct 15 '16 at 6:45
  • Which platform or platforms does this apply to? I think the solutions will depend on the platform you are on. – Christophe Strobbe Oct 31 '18 at 10:37
  • @ChristopheStrobbe: I was talking about the hardware, not the software. But I work with Linux mostly. – einpoklum Oct 31 '18 at 10:41

Some ideas:

  • "On-air talent" (like newscasters and talk show hosts), use a single earpiece similar to this:

single earpiece

The earpiece is often acoustically coupled via tubing to a transducer clipped somewhere else. These can get expensive, but you could accomplish a similar result by using just one of a pair of earphones, and use a simple mixer to feed both channels to the one earpiece.

  • There are headphones that operate through bone conduction.

bone conduction headphones

This article goes into detail and reviews a number of specific products: http://www.everydayhearing.com/hearing-technology/articles/bone-conduction-headphones/

  • A new product, that may still be in the Kickstarter phase, is a device built into a watch band. You put your finger on your head and hear the sound via bone conduction through your hand.

smart strap

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