Why Two Hearing Aids are Better than One
Some people with hearing loss think they can get by with only a single hearing aid. In reality, this strategy often causes more problems. Learn why two hearing aids are almost always better than one.
One question we often hear from people with hearing loss is whether they can use one hearing aid instead of two. For some this is an economic decision - they like the idea of only buying one hearing aid. Others think their hearing loss isn’t bad enough to warrant two hearing aids, or their hearing loss is unequal between ears.
However, in almost every case, using only one hearing aid isn’t a good idea. For the vast majority of people with hearing loss, using two hearing aids gives a much greater benefit than using only one. Why? Keep reading to find out.
The Benefits of Using Two Hearing Aids
For many hearing loss sufferers, there are distinct benefits to using a hearing aid in each ear. Some of the biggest benefits are:
Better Sound Localization and Directionality
Hearing aids offer many benefits to users beyond allowing them to understand speech and other sounds. One of the chief benefits of hearing aids is allowing users to “localize” sounds - in other words, to determine where sounds are coming from. However, when only using one hearing aid, you miss out on many of these benefits.
Clinical studies have shown that when people use only one hearing aid, they have more difficulty determining which direction sounds are coming from, especially in environments with lots of background noise. In contrast, when people use two hearing aids they find it much easier to determine the source and location of sounds in all directions.
Reduction of Background Noise
Background noise is the bane of many people with hearing loss. Noisy environments make it more difficult to hear and understand the people around you. Modern hearing aids work hard to combat this effect with sophisticated software and hardware. The effects are often amazing - hearing aid users can hear speech and other sounds clearly even in crowded and noisy environments that would have baffled other devices even a few years ago.
However, this effect is greatly reduced when using only one hearing aid. This is because our brains are wired to use the sound from both ears to decipher speech and other sounds. When only one ear is fully utilized, it’s easier to get “interference” that impedes understanding. Your brain has to work harder to understand other people, leading to increased listening fatigue and more difficulty with conversation. Most people see much more benefit in hearing and understanding with two hearing aids because of this.
Less Auditory Deprivation
Much like your muscles, your hearing ability depends in part on how much it is used. People who only use one hearing aid effectively deprive the other ear of stimulation, which can actually worsen hearing loss in that ear over time.
This effect is known as “auditory deprivation.” Usually it appears in people who neglect to get hearing aids altogether and who suffer from greater hearing loss in both ears. However, the same effect is possible in people who only use hearing aids in one ear. By depriving the other ear of auditory signals, you reduce the ear’s ability to hear effectively. This can worsen hearing loss and make it harder to recover from. In contrast, using two hearing aids reduces the effects of auditory deprivation and can actually help your ears recover some of their lost hearing ability over time.
Reduce Hearing Aid Volume
One of the biggest drawbacks to using only one hearing aid is the need to listen to it at a higher volume to “drown out” background noise and unwanted sounds from the unamplified ear. Many hearing loss sufferers who use only one hearing aid report needing to listen at an uncomfortable volume, or feel like they’re being “shouted at” by people they talk to. Listening at high volumes also creates problems with gain and feedback, since the hearing aid’s microphone is more likely to pick up its own amplified signal.
In contrast, the use of two hearing aids allows users to listen at a more comfortable volume and to reduce the effects of high gain and feedback. Because each ear is amplified, there is no need to drown out background sounds - both ears can work in tandem to understand speech and other sounds.
In the end, using two hearing aids provides a much greater benefit for most hearing loss sufferers than using just one.
Is One Hearing Aid Ever the Right Choice?
There are some rare cases when using one hearing aid might be advisable. Here are a few of the situations in which an audiologist might recommend using a single hearing aid:
When Your Hearing is “Unbalanced”
If you have mild or moderate hearing loss in one ear and relatively normal hearing in the other, one hearing aid can “balance” your hearing and help you hear almost normally again. However, you should be sure to check back with your audiologist regularly if you find yourself in this situation. Hearing changes can occur rapidly, and you may find yourself in need of a second hearing aid later on.
When One Ear is Completely Deaf
If you have lost all hearing in one ear, there isn’t much a hearing aid can do to help. Wearing a hearing aid in your other ear will still provide benefits over not wearing one. However, you should make sure you are truly deaf in your worse ear - many people simply have severe hearing loss that can still be aided by a high-powered hearing aid.
When You Are Experiencing Cognitive Impairment
If you have a condition such as dementia or Alzheimer’s which leads to mild cognitive impairment (MCI), you may see greater benefit from one hearing aid rather than two. Tests have shown that people with cognitive delays or impairment perform better with one hearing aid, possibly due to two hearing aids resulting in “overstimulation” of the neural pathways responsible for listening and understanding.
Start Recovering Your Hearing Today
No matter what kind of hearing loss you’re suffering from or how severe it is, you can get help today. At (405) 949-1906 today to schedule your appointment or visit us on Facebook for more hearing advice and help.
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