The more I read this site, the more I think that I want to try to carefully take Gutbucket's advice. This guy has a great perspective.
One thing I can add on the technical side right now, is that normalization affects the level according to peak values, but our ears determine channel balance via something more like AVERAGE level.
Because the average can be computed in a few different ways, GUTBUCKET has a great plan when he suggests to USE YOUR EARS to get it just right.
A fade is just a specific type of volume adjustment- one that changes over time. First pull down the level of the overly loud portions at the start to match the rest of the file. Then do whatever else you feel needs to be done- fades, normalization, EQ, compression, tracking, and whatever.
Keep in mind that if the peak levels of the left and right channels are different, normalizing them independently will affect the Left/Right stereo balance. If doing it that way at least give it a listen afterward to be sure the stereo balance is alright. Instead, I recommend ignoring any imbalance in the numeric RMS or peak levels and just adjusting stereo balance by ear to whatever sounds appropriate, then normalizing the file in the the usual way (as a channel-linked stereo file), which will raise peak levels to whatever you specify while retaining stereo balance.
I have hearing loss that's not the same in both ears, so i flip my headphones around when I making decisions like this.
here is my process:
step 1: Check balance using headphones in the normal orientation, with left cup on left ear, and right cup on right, and adjust playback levels to best "center" the stereo image
step 2: REVERSE HEADPHONES - Left on right ear, Right on left ear
step 3: Is the stereo image close to the center? Or is it shifted to one side as a result of my hearing loss?
step 4: Adjust playback levels and make a mental note.
step 5: Reverse headphones back around to correct orientation.
step 6: Is the stereo image close to the center, or is it shifted as a result of over-correction for my own personal hearing loss?
step 7: adjust balance to "split the difference"
step 8: go back to step 2 and repeat steps 2-7 until you are satisfied that the only channel imbalance that you can hear is a result of your own personal hearing loss.
note that if your headphones are not symmetrical, this whole thing is not gonna work. Evidently you'll have to check your headphones before you start, with a mono signal, doing the same reverse-maneuver to be sure that your headphones are up to the task.