One Hearing Aid or Two

“Do I need two hearing aids, or can I get by with just one?” 

This question is one I hear quite frequently from patients with hearing loss in both ears. Personally, I understand their point of view: why invest in two hearing aids if one will suffice? 

However, as an audiologist, I know the benefits of wearing hearing aids in both ears, and I’m happy to share my knowledge with you. The following are several benefits of wearing hearing aids in both ears. 

Sound Localization

Our brains rely on information from both of our ears to determine where sounds are coming from. Timing, intensity, and location are items that can be difficult to judge when relying on the reception of only one ear and can lead to confusion or dizziness. These issues are easily resolved when hearing aids are used in both ears. 

Improved Understanding in Background Noise

Many individuals with hearing loss have difficulty hearing in noisy environments. A study by Kim et al. (2014) demonstrates that individuals who wear two hearing aids are better able to follow conversations with background noise than those who wear only one hearing aid. Essentially, hearing aids work better as a pair, enhancing speech understanding in background noise.

Preservation of Speech Understanding

Over time, untreated hearing loss can lead to a decline in speech understanding. If both ears are experiencing hearing loss, the entire auditory system is affected and requires treatment. 

Wearing only one hearing aid is like wearing only one prescription lens in your glasses. To maintain speech understanding equally, wear hearing aids in both ears.

Our Experience

Sometimes, our patients do not follow our recommendations, and we respect their decisions. However, at Harbor Hearing we are always upfront about proper expectations. Most patients who need two hearing aids but only invest in one will report problems about misunderstandings in noisy environments, poor localization, and decreased word understanding in the unaided ear.

We are blessed to have two ears. If we can use them, we should. 

Byrne, D. & Noble, W. (1998) Optimizing Sound Localization with Hearing Aids. Trends in Hearing 3(2). doi: 10.1177/108471389800300202

Kim, J., Lee, J.H., & Lee, H. (2014) Advantages of Binaural Amplification to Acceptable Noise Level of Directional Hearing Aid Users. Clinical and Experimental Otohinolaryngology. 7(2) doi: 10.3342/ceo.2014.7.2.94