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What you always wanted to know: are two hearing aids better than one?

  • 03 Jan 2020

Are two hearing aids better than one? I have hearing loss; do I get one or two hearing aids? One seems sufficiently for me to hear but two may seem too much for me to manage. If you are pondering to get one or two hearing aids for your hearing loss condition, you are not alone. This is a common question we get from our users/patients in our clinics daily.

The truth is our human hearing physiology is designed for two ears hearing. You may think that getting one hearing aid is sufficient for you to get by but one hearing aid cannot do the job of two ears hearing. If you are vision impaired, you would always put on a pair of glasses. Similarly, if hearing loss has been identified in both ears, the best practice is to use two hearing aids.

Starting with one or with two hearing aids is always a key consideration for people with hearing loss. Binaural hearing is compromised when one has a hearing loss in one or both ears. The benefits of binaural hearing are often taken for granted by people with normal hearing. Another truth is modern hearing aid technology can greatly enhance hearing but it will not be back to 100% normal.  That is why every step counts.  

It is important to understand the difference between binaural versus monoaural hearing to aid us makes better informed decision.  Let us understand what are the advantages of using two hearing aids over one hearing aid.

5 reasons why two hearing aids are recommended:

1) Improve hearing in noisy environment

Wearing two hearing aids helps you to hear and pick out sounds better in background noise environment. Using two hearing aids with directional microphones greatly reduces background noise, improves speech clarity in noise and allows the user to focus on speech that is in front him/her.

2) Better localisation of sounds

Wearing two hearing aids help you to locate the direction of sounds. 

The time difference it takes for the sound to hit your right and left ears respectively helps your brain determines sound source location or where the sound is coming from, known as “Interaural time difference”.  This is important for personal safety reasons. For instance, if a car is driving towards you from your right side, it is important you can quickly identify the approaching traffic or warning signals are coming from the right side for your awareness and personal safety.

In a big meeting, it helps you quickly identify who is speaking in the group so that you can focus your attention on the speaker and stays connected.

3) Speech perception, balance and Stereo effort
(summation effect of sound from both ears to the brain)

Wearing two hearing aids means each ear picks up sound and gets the stimulus from both sides of the head to fully stimulate your brain. Hearing from both sides of the head gives a better sense of balance and improves perception and understanding of sound. Our brain has the ability to hear in stereo rather than mono and the hearing aids provide fuller and richer sound to both ears.  If the impaired ear does not hear sounds for prolonged periods of time, it will find it more difficult and less effective at decoding sounds the way it once did.

4) Reduce the need to set high amplification

With two hearing aids, the volume/loudness can be set to a lower level and you can still hear adequately well. With one hearing aid, you often need to turn up the volume to a high level in order to compensate for absence of amplification to the other ear.

Phonak Audéo M

Phonak Audéo Marvel rechargeable models

5) Less Impact, Hear Better

Listening with two hearing aids is less taxing than one, requires less effort to hear and is less tiring.  When residual hearing in both ears are being optimised, you don’t have to strain yourself to hear in order to make sense of the sounds and conversations around you. It is exhausting, exerts cognitive overload and you likely still cannot hear clearly. 

Long period of untreated hearing loss also leads to other impacts e.g. social withdrawal, behavioural changes in addition to health issues.

Recent improvements in hearing aid technology greatly enhance the hearing outcome, along with comfort and ease of use.  It does more than helping you hear sounds.  It helps you reconnect to your favourite activities such as watching TV dramas, listening to music, taking phone calls, thereby enhancing lifestyles and relationship bonding.

When do you use, or start with one hearing aid?

advanced-smart-hearing-aids-for-every-hearing-loss-why-2-is-better-than-1

Some people have hearing loss in one ear and normal hearing in the other ear. This group of people with single sided hearing loss can go with one hearing aid, which is obvious to most.

Many elderly seniors live alone by themselves. Poor dexterity making managing hearing aid on their own difficult. Some may be fearful of new technology products and are hesitant with managing changing.  These are another reason to start with one hearing aid first.

Starting them off with one hearing aid help our seniors hear better and acquire better hearing health, in the process help them to build confidence.  Once they are comfortable and regain the joys of hearing, our user care experience tells us they will want to wear the second hearing aid as managing it will be easier.

As always, we emphasize the importance of doing a hearing test to determine the current hearing loss condition.  Let our professional, experienced Audiologists help you understand your hearing condition and partner you on the hearing solutions and evaluation journey towards successful hearing outcome together.