A comparison of published equal loudness contours indicates that different shapes are obtained at a comfortable level when the measurements are done in an occluded ear than when they are done in an open ear, even though all measurements are expressed as dB SPL at the eardrum. This paper presents the result from a loudness balancing test which confirms this observation. Eleven normal-hearing listeners balanced the level of a 500- and a 3000-Hz octave band babble-noise to the level of a 1500-Hz octave band babble-noise. The balancing test was completed in open and occluded ears using a loudspeaker and a hearing aid receiver, respectively. A probe tube microphone was used to measure the actual levels presented near the individual's eardrum. The results show that an average of 10 dB higher level was selected for the 500-Hz octave band when listening with the occluded ear than when listening with the open ear. A large range of factors is discussed, but no physical explanation for the discrepancy was found. The findings could have consequences for psychoacoustic experiments and for the use of loudness measurements for hearing aid prescription. (C) 2000 Acoustical Society of America.