As audiologists we often get asked the question, “Do I need hearing aids for both ears?”. Patients who are hearing aid candidates for both ears want to know if they can “get by” with one hearing aid. My answer is actually a question, “Do you want to “get by” or would you like to hear as well as you possibly can?”. Aided hearing is never the same as normal hearing. Aided hearing with one hearing aid, when two are recommended, falls short for many reasons.
Here are some benefits of binaural amplification:
- The brain hears better with two ears. When both ears are amplified, called “binaural amplification”, information is being provided to the brain from both ears. When a signal is received at the ear, some of the information stimulates that side and some of the information crosses over to the other side. If both ears are being stimulated, then more information will be provided to both sides of the brain. Each half of the brain serves different functions. If they are not working effectively together then auditory intelligence, or understanding, is reduced.
- Two hearing aids provide a clearer, more natural sound. Just as music and television sound better in surround sound, two hearing aids allow for voices, and music, to have more nuances and depth. This allows sound, especially speech, to sound more natural and more importantly be more easily understood.
- Safety is an issue. If a hearing is at one ear only then it will be impossible to tell where sounds are coming from. If a car is coming, or a siren is blowing, it is important to know from which direction it is coming.
- You will hear better in noise. Hearing in background noise, such as at a restaurant or party. Hearing is noise is never easy with hearing aids. Is some extreme situations such as a wedding reception, hearing can be hard with normal ears. Ask a person with one normal ear and hearing loss in the other ear and they will tell you that they have trouble hearing is noise. This is similar to wearing one hearing aid. The best chance a person with hearing loss in both ears has to hear in noise is with two hearing aids. Today’s hearing aids, especially with mid-upper level technology, perform better in noise then ever before. They combine noise reduction with speech processing and directional microphones, with the two hearing aids sharing information wirelessly for the best possible results.
If you are considering one or two hearing aids give two a try. You will have your 45-day trial period to determine whether two are truly better than one. Your ears, and your brain, will likely not let you give one back.
Lori Biasotti, Au.D., is a NY State Licensed Audiologist with a private practice audiology/hearing aid dispensing office called Family Hearing Center at 18 Westage Business Center Drive in Fishkill, NY. (near the movie theater). Call with questions or to schedule an appointment, (845)897-3059. Visit our informative, interactive website at www.familyhearing.org .