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Are Two Hearing Aids Better Than One?

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Dr. Timothy Teague, AuD
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The best treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids, which help to amplify the sounds you may be missing. Often hearing loss will develop in one ear more than the other. If this is the case you may be wondering do I actually need two hearing aids?

Hearing Loss in Both Ears

Even if one ear seems to be stronger than the other it is very rare for one ear to have no hearing loss at all. Hearing loss most often is caused by age related or noise induced hearing loss, which is caused when the tiny cells in the inner ear, responsible for transmitting sound to the brain to be processed, are damaged or destroyed. The damage may not be even but it is still present. Even if one ear seems much worse than the other it is most often relative. A hearing test will detect hearing ability in both ears and over 90% of the time, hearing loss is active in both ears. Treating just one ear can cause unexpected problems. 

Binaural Hearing

To understand the importance of two hearing aids it is key to understand how the brain processes sound. The brain relies on both ears to hear binaurally. Binaural hearing helps the brain comprehend the location, distance and direction of sounds around you. By relying on both ears you can tell the localization, and speed that sounds are moving around you. Infants are quick to localize the sounds around them when they have healthy hearing as this ability helps you navigate the world. It is easier for you to hear a fast approaching jogger, biker or car from behind and from which direction, when you can hear from both ears. Binaural hearing keeps you safe by helping to keep you aware of your surroundings. Accidents and collisions can be avoided much more often adding to your overall safety and the safety of those around you. 

Cognitive Health

If you choose to wear only one hearing aid you may be greatly under stimulating your “good” ear. As it is rare that one ear has no hearing loss at all, if only one ear is aided, the other ear may become under active. Just like your muscles need regular stimulation to stay strong your brain operates similarly. We hear with our brains just as much as with our ears. Our brains process the sound picked up by our ears and if one ear isn’t getting the stimulation it needs then its function can begin to atrophy. Ensuring that both ears are equally amplified will mean that your left and right auditory centers of the brain are receiving stimulation to stay healthy.  

Improved Sound Quality

Not only does binaural hearing help to keep you safe but also helps you understand conversation. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology found that word recognition and speech understanding was improved when hearing aid users employed both devices when conversing. Two hearing aids allow you to hear the quiet and subtle tones in speech you could miss with just one amplified ear. To get the best quality of sound from your hearing aids, whether it is when speaking to the people in your life or listening to the music you love it’s a good idea to wear both hearing aids. Two hearing aids will allow you to hear the nuance in tones and be more aware of the richness of sounds around you. 

Turn Down the Amplification

When people choose to wear only one hearing aid it is all too common to crank up the volume on the hearing aid. Not only does this continue to enforce under stimulation of your other ear, but can actually cause noise induced damage to your amplified ear. With both ears hearing in a balanced manner you won’t be inclined to turn your hearing aids up so loud. You will prolong the battery life of your hearing aids but more importantly, you wont over stimulate your ears with excessive hearing aid volume.

Stay Balanced

If you are struggling with hearing in one or both ears, contact us to set up a hearing test. We can identify your degree of hearing loss in both ears and help to get you the best hearing aids to amplify both ears in perfect balance.