Efficient Headphone Screen

Conducting online auditory experiments? A new headphone test to help you to efficiently screen out participants who probably aren't using headphones.

  • Rapid (~3 minutes) test for headphone use.

  • The efficacy of this screening task has been demonstrated in Milne, Bianco, Poole, Zhao, Billig, Oxenham & Chait (2020). An online headphone screening test based on dichotic pitch. Behav Res. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-020-01514-0 .

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Efficient Headphone Screen

Rapid (~3 minutes) test for headphone use.

  • In this short task, listeners will be presented with three white noise sounds with silent gaps in-between. One of the noises has a faint tone hidden within. Participants will be asked to decide which of the three noises contains the tone, and click on the correct corresponding button (1, 2, or 3). The task has been shown to be very efficient to detect people that are not wearing headphones.

  • The efficacy of this test is increased if used together with binaural beat test (provided below, see Milne et al., 2020 for details).

  • The efficacy of this screening task has been demonstrated in Milne, Bianco, Poole, Zhao, Billig, Oxenham & Chait. An online headphone screening test based on dichotic pitch. Behav Res. Methods [https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-020-01514-0 ].

  • Overall, this headphone screen correctly detects 80% of headphone users and has a false-positive rate of 20%. Moreover, we demonstrate that combining the Efficient Headphone Screen with an additional test – e.g. the binaural beat test can lower the false-positive rate to ~ 7%.

This task was updated 28/07/2021 to reduce the loudness of the stimuli. We would recommend that you also do a volume calibration for your stimuli before starting your task.

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY)


3AFC functionality modified from Relational Reasoning With Spreadsheet Subset Selection, Copyright (c) Cauldron Science Ltd 2019


Headphone Check with Huggins' Pitch - and - browser sound check

Example experimental flow that includes the headphone screen.
The flow also contains a

  1. browser sound check
  2. Headphone screen (including rejection criteria)
  3. headphone pass/reject screens.

This was updated 28/07/2021 to use the reduced loudness version of the headphone screen and based on user feedback uses a different piece of music in the browser sound check to previous versions.

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY)


3AFC functionality modified from Relational Reasoning With Spreadsheet Subset Selection, Copyright (c) Cauldron Science Ltd 2019


Binaural Beats Test

This test can be used to complement the main headphone screen. It can be passed if the listener is only listening with a single ear, therefore should not be used as a headphone screen on its own.

See Milne et al. 2020 for more details: https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-020-01514-0

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY)


3AFC functionality modified from Relational Reasoning With Spreadsheet Subset Selection, Copyright (c) Cauldron Science Ltd 2019

Preferred Citation Milne, Bianco, Poole, Zhao, Billig, Oxenham & Chait. (2020). An online headphone screening test based on dichotic pitch. Behavior Research Methods
https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-020-01514-0
Cramer, E. M., & Huggins, W. H. (1958), Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
https://doi.org/10.1121/1.1909628
Woods, K. J. P., et al., (2017), Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics.
https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-017-1361-2
Chait M. et al., (2006), Cerebral Cortex
https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhj027
Conducted at Ear Institute, University College London, London WC1X 8EE, UK
Published on 22 July 2020
Corresponding author Dr Roberta Bianco post doc
Ear Institute
University College London