Should I Get One or Two Hearing Aids

Often a patient diagnosed with hearing loss is prescribed hearing aids. One of the frequently asked questions in such scenarios is, should I buy one or two hearing aids? Most of the time audiologists and doctors prefer the use of two hearing aids instead of one. However, in some cases the patient only requires one hearing aid. In this section, we look at the advantages of using two hearing aids and also, the specific cases where only one device is needed.

A person with normal hearing uses two ears for hearing. There is a reason why we have two ears instead of one. The two ears on each side give us the ability to hear better and have ‘binaural hearing’. Binaural hearing means having the ability to hear from both ears and integrating this information together by the brain. Now, consider blocking one of your ears using a cotton plug for one whole day. Imagine how it would feel. Similarly, persons who are affected by bilateral (in both ears) hearing impairment should opt for two hearing aids.

 

WHY GO FOR TWO HEARING AIDS?

  • When you hear a person in a room speaking to you, without even looking at him you are able to have an idea where the person is and at what distance from you. This ability to locate the sound source in a three dimensional background is called localization. Your brain is able to interpret the difference in loudness of the sound between the ears, and the difference in time for the sound to reach both ears, since your ears are located at a distance from each other. This information received by the brain helps in localizing the sound. In a patient with hearing impairment in both ears, it is important to use two hearing aids to have a better chance of localization of sound.
  • Normally, a lot of different sounds are detected by our ears including background noise but our brain focuses on the sounds we need to hear the most. For example, speech is an important sound while sitting in a restaurant with your partner and all the other sounds like clanging of cutleries are not that important. This elimination of background noise and focus on speech sounds is easier when using two hearing aids. It also helps you hear more clearly and reduces the stress on one ear to provide all the hearing duties.
  • When using two hearing aids, the volume setting on both hearing aids is set at a lower level, up to 10 dB lower than when using a single hearing aid. This helps to protect the ears from noise trauma from loud sounds and makes the person more able to tolerate loud sounds.
  • Wearing two hearing aids makes listening a more enjoyable experience without having to strain yourself while trying to hear which can be hugely irritating and frustrating.
  • Patients with tinnitus should naturally opt to use two hearing aids, because using one will only reduce the ringing sound in one of the ears but not the other. These patients will find it much more comfortable to use two hearing aids to reduce the tinnitus in both their ears.
  • Studies have shown that if you use one hearing aid instead of two for a prolonged period of time, the ear without the hearing aid loses its ability to discriminate speech because it is under-stimulated and “lying idle”. This will result in the residual hearing in the unamplified ear regressing over time due to lack of usage, which will gradually weaken its speech discrimination ability. This is another reason to use two hearing aids instead of one.

 

WHEN TO GO FOR A SINGLE HEARING AID?

  • If you have only one defective ear with hearing impairment and the other one being completely normal, then it goes without saying that you should only use one hearing aid for the defective ear.
  • If the sounds from one of the defective ears are imperceptible and consists of nonsensical sounds, then there is no need for a hearing aid in that ear. Amplifying those incomprehensible sounds will only make it more difficult to hear properly from the other ear.
  • The cost of two hearing aids is nearly double than that of a single one. For a person for whom affordability is a big factor, then he may consider using a single hearing aid for the time being.

These are general outlines to help you choose between one or two hearing aids, but it is imperative to say that all cases are unique and you must follow the advice of your audiologist on what is best for you.