Title: Do I Need Hearing Aids for both ears?
Blog Entry: When you are first diagnosed with a hearing loss it can be quite daunting to then be told that you need hearing aids.  That’s right - hearing aids - plural.  You may wonder… Does this mean my hearing loss is twice as bad?  No. Two hearing aids will be recommended for most people when they have a hearing loss in both ears.  Whether you require 1 or 2 hearing aids is totally dependent on the level of hearing loss present in each ear.  Hearing loss can range from a very mild hearing loss to a profound hearing loss and age-related hearing loss occurs for most people gradually over time, generally effecting both ears.  For cases where the hearing loss in one ear is worse than the other, a hearing aid for each ear will still be recommended, so that the hearing loss can be corrected independently for each ear.  Our brain was designed to receive auditory information equally from both sides and requires this ‘binaural’ hearing information to function most effectively, especially in social situations where there is background noise present.  By wearing hearing aids programmed to the individual hearing loss of each ear, the brain will again receive balanced sounds between the ears, as is the natural design of the hearing system. ADVANTAGES OF TWO HEARING AIDS Wearing two hearing aids, when there is a hearing loss in both ears, has been shown to enhance the listening experience in a number of ways.   Better Localisation and Directionality with two Hearing Aids Sound signals arriving at each ear give our brain the ability to determine which direction a sound came from (localisation).  When there is a hearing loss in both ears and only one hearing aid is worn, the other ear will not hear as effectively, and this directional hearing ability is disrupted.  Wearing only one hearing aid, when both ears have a hearing loss, does not allow the brain to use the timing and volume cues needed to tell where the sounds came from.  Localisation is an important skill for social situations as it allows us to know who is speaking so that we can turn and focus our attention on the conversation.  It is also important for our safety i.e. telling where a warning signal, siren, alarm and traffic is coming from.    Better Speech Understanding in Background Noise with two Hearing Aids Most situations that involve conversation also contain an element of background noise.  Our brain requires an equal level of sound to be perceived on the left and right side in order to perform to its best potential for speech clarity, particularly in the presence of competing background noise. The timing of sound arriving at the ear allows us to tell where sounds come from (localise) and to distinguish the required speech sounds from the background noise.  Just as we require two eyes with equal vision for best depth perception, we also need two optimally working ears to hear through the background noise.  Wearing only one hearing aid, when there is a hearing loss in both ears, will not allow you to take advantage of the brain’s ability to focus on speech when in noisy environments.   Lower volume required with two hearing aids Listening with two hearing aids, when there is a hearing loss in both ears, gives your brain the perception of increased volume and better ease of listening, without the need to set the hearing aids as high. This typically provides better comfort when in noise and improved satisfaction for the wearer. Less chance of Auditory Deprivation with two Hearing Aids By wearing only 1 hearing aid, when there is a hearing loss in both ears, the ear without the hearing aid is being deprived of sound.  This deprivation of sound can then make the auditory nerve less effective at processing speech information over time.  Understanding speech, particularly when background noise is present, can then become more difficult as time passes.  Just like our muscles must be used to maintain their performance and strength, our auditory pathway must also be exercised to stay at peak performance.  Wearing hearing aids for both ears when the hearing loss requires amplification, will help the auditory pathway to remain in best condition for the long term.  DISADVANTAGES OF TWO HEARING AIDS There are very few disadvantages to wearing two hearing aids. The most obvious disadvantage is cost.  Most people, will however - if they have a hearing loss in both ears, find that the listening ease and benefit they receive by wearing two hearing aids will far outway the cost of purchasing the second device.   Is One Hearing Aid ever the correct solution? There are very few times when one hearing aid will be recommended by a hearing professional.  Those times include, if you have a hearing loss in one ear and normal or only a very mild hearing loss in the other - then it is appropriate to purchase and wear only one hearing aid.  It is important, however, that the hearing loss is monitored regularly in the better ear to determine whether it also requires a hearing aid over time.  There is also some research that suggests that people with dementia and/or cognitive decline will find one hearing aid more beneficial than two (even if they have a hearing loss  in both ears) – however this decision is best made on a case by case basis with evidence obtained for each individual.  The potential benefit from two hearing aids is always best trialled in this circumstance to determine how each individual performs. As a side note, given that hearing aids are programmed individually for the hearing loss in each ear - if you typically wear two hearing aids and one is sent for repair or service or if you have an ear infection in one ear, it is appropriate to wear just one hearing aid alone during this interval (remember two is better than one, but one is better than none). Still not sure of the next step? If you have been diagnosed with a hearing loss or would like to be tested for a hearing loss it is recommended that you consult with an Audiologist to determine the best course of action for your individual case.  If you are unsure whether to purchase one or two hearing aids, we strongly recommend that you request to trial a hearing aid for each ear.  A hearing aid trial is generally provided at no charge and is the best way to determine the benefit for your individual hearing loss and circumstances.     If you’re looking to get your hearing tested, trust Australia’s only hearing healthcare provider,   Attune Hearing . With clinics nationwide, visit one of our friendly Audiologists for a professional hearing test   or to ask more information about  trialing a hearing aid .  Contact Attune Hearing  today for an appointment.