Why Buy Two Hearing Aids? Because 2 Ears Are Always Better Than 1
The world is meant to be heard in ‘surround sound’. Our ears were engineered to work together (binaurally) to process sounds, and our brain’s two halves require input from both ears to create auditory intelligence. Each ear is responsible for sending unique signals to your brain, and each signal is received differently and affects perception and understanding. In short, your ears and brain work together to create a precise definition of the sound you have just heard, and when only one ear is working to send signals it can take longer to understand the sound, or it can alter the perception of the sound itself.
When a hearing professional finds a hearing loss in one of your ears it’s always better to get two hearing aids, even though it may be less expensive to get just one. One hearing aid alone cannot provide the same ear-to-ear experience as two, and will not offer you the same listening experience. Similarly, if you have hearing loss in both ears you should definitely consider wearing two devices; not because they make things twice as loud, but because two hearing aids help provide fuller and richer sound for a more natural listening experience. By mimicking the natural hearing process, they help you determine where sounds are coming from and distinguish between competing sounds more easily. This makes it easier to understand what people are saying in noisy situations, for example.
Results of more than 50 years of research in acoustics and the auditory system have proven clear advantages of wearing two hearing aids, and serious disadvantages of wearing one when two are needed. Binaural models give you improved overall sound quality, balanced hearing and listening ease. On the other hand, if you wear just one device, the un-amplified ear may lose its ability to hear, analyse and understand speech as a result of auditory deprivation.
Some of the benefits of using two hearing aids include:
- Better localisation ability: The ability to tell where sounds are coming from requires equal input from both ears. This is important to allow you to know which way to turn when someone is talking to you, or to help you locate danger signals such as oncoming traffic.
- Better understanding of speech: Research shows that people wearing two hearing instruments routinely understand speech and conversation significantly better than people wearing only one hearing instrument.
- Better hearing in challenging and noisy situations: Two hearing aids are needed to focus on sounds you want to hear, and reduce unwanted sounds like background noise.
- Better sound quality (‘stereo’ vs. ‘mono’): When you listen to your stereo system you use both speakers to get the smoothest, sharpest, most natural sound quality. The same is true for hearing aids; with two hearing aids you achieve a better sensation of balanced sound reception and sound quality.
- Greater listening comfort: Wearing two hearing instruments generally requires less volume than wearing only one, which results in greater listening comfort because the amplification level is lower. A lower volume control setting also reduces the chance of feedback and whistling.
- Volume Reduction: When hearing loss occurs, many find themselves turning up the volume on the radio or TV. Wearing two hearing aids eliminates the need for loud volumes and consequently helps reduce your exposure to unsafe listening levels when enjoying radio, movies or music.
- More relaxed listening: More binaural instrument wearers report that listening and participating in conversations is more enjoyable with two instruments instead of just one. This is because they do not have to strain to hear with the better ear, which can help make life more relaxing. With only one aid trying to do the job of two ears, you’re likely to get listening fatigue.
- Preservation of speech understanding in both ears: Research has shown that when only one hearing instrument is worn, the unaided ear tends to lose its ability to hear and understand. This is called the auditory deprivation effect. Wearing two hearing instruments keeps both ears active and can prevent deterioration of the speech understanding ability in the unaided ear.
- Tinnitus masking: Hearing aids are often recommended for helping to manage tinnitus, and many are equipped with tinnitus specific technology or masking capabilities. Using one hearing aid will not help mask the ringing in the unaided ear, so it’s recommended that two hearing aids are used when tinnitus is a concern.
- Balance: You won’t have to turn your ‘good ear’ toward what you want to listen to.
- User preference: When given the choice between listening with one instrument or two, the overwhelming majority of users choose two instruments when they have a hearing loss in both ears.
- User satisfaction: Studies show that people who wear two hearing aids are more satisfied than those fit with only one. Nature gave us two ears for a reason, just like it gave us two eyes and two limbs. So logically, just as you use both eyes to see clearly, you need two healthy ears to hear clearly.
Because of all these known advantages, most people fit with hearing aids today choose to wear them in both ears.