Why Take Two? Is Two Really Better Than One?

I recently had a patient diagnosed with a permanent hearing loss in both ears. While discussing the various hearing aid options, he brought up a great question, “Do I really need two hearing aids? Won’t my hearing be improved even if I only get one hearing aid?” 

For most individuals looking to pursue hearing aids, the simple answer to this question is two hearing aids are better than one. Here are some reasons why.

Two Ears to Hear

We use both ears to listen even without hearing loss. This is what we call binaural hearing. Our brains are constantly gathering timing, volume and spatial information from both ears to help determine where sounds are coming from. The information that is gathered is extremely important for localizing sounds, which can be helpful for our own safety. In addition, localizing sound through binaural listening is great for difficult listening situations, especially ones with background noise.

Basically, two ears work better together than one ear working alone. Recent research tells us that only 5 percent of people with hearing loss do better with one hearing aid.

Easier to Recognize Words

Research suggests that performance on word recognition testing deteriorates at a significantly more rapid pace in an unaided ear compared to an aided ear due to the lack of auditory stimulation or auditory deprivation. In cases of auditory deprivation, the brain is falling victim to the “use it or lose it” paradigm. As the auditory system endures more hearing loss, the brain is not being stimulated as much as it would be for normal hearing listeners. The less the auditory system is being used, the less information the brain will process. Various studies have investigated the use of one hearing aid versus two hearing aids. The individuals that used only one hearing aid expressed much greater frustration in their overall hearing performance.

Overall, listening with two ears (including hearing aids) is more relaxing and simply easier. By providing stimulation for both ears, an individual with two hearing aids will have more balance and improved sound localization, as well as a lower probability of auditory deprivation.

Obviously, each individual and situation is different. As clinicians, we realize that other factors may play into your decision as well. Whether you have cosmetic, physical or financial constraints to consider, at Avera Medical Group Ear, Nose & Throat Yankton, we encourage our patients to take full advantage of our 90-day adjustment period before making your final decision. Ultimately, it is the patient’s decision to purchase one or two hearing aids.

By Dr. Matthew Rumsey

Audiologist at Avera Sacred Heart

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