With an estimated 48 million people suffering from hearing loss in the US alone, it is important to be vigilant about monitoring your hearing ability. Traditionally associated as an affliction of older, now more than ever people of all ages are struggling with hearing loss.
If you are starting to notice difficulties with hearing people speaking and sounds around you, it is a good idea to seek help. The most common and effective treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids, which amplify the lost sound around you.
While it is common for hearing loss to be more pronounced in one ear more than the other, often people wonder if they can get away with wearing only one hearing aid. While this may seem tempting, this action can actually cause more problems then help.
To understand the importance of two hearing aids, it is important to understand how our ears help our brains process sound. We use binaural hearing of both ears to help us locate sound and understand the proximity and speed of approaching sound.
Our brains rely on both ears to understand the spaces we occupy and help us navigate safely. Two ears help us detect warning sounds, like a vehicle or animal approaching at us quickly, from which direction and at what speed. We can move out of the way in a timely manner when we are able to locate the warning sounds.
When one ear is amplified while the other is not, the brain struggles to understand proximity and localization. Using both our ears with equal hearing ability keeps us safer and reduces risk of falls and accidents.
Single Ear Hearing Loss Is Rare
Even if one ear seems to have worse hearing loss than the other, it is rare for the other ear to have no hearing loss at all. In 90% of cases hearing loss occurs in both ears. While one side may be further along, usually both ears are compromised.
When you choose to wear one hearing aid, the unamplified ear may become under-stimulated. The brain must be regularly exercised like our muscles, so when one side of your hearing is unamplified, your hearing on that side can become atrophied. The goal of hearing aids is to ease cognitive impairment, by amplifying sounds so your brain doesn’t have to struggle to keep balance.
Better Hearing in Noise
When we choose to use only one hearing aid they cannot perform to their intended potential. Most hearing aids are designed to mimic the natural pattern of the hearing in the brain. Did you know that your hearing in noise could be improved by up to 3 times when each hearing aid can receive a sound at slightly different moments to your ears?
In hearing aids, this is referred to as “phase”, in which the brain receives slightly different signals in each ear, mimicking natural hearing. Phasing allows your brain to understand speech more clearly, particularly in noisy environments.
With two hearing aids you can detect the rich fullness of sound and speech you may have lost with hearing loss. When you choose to only amplify your “good ear” you deny yourself the subtle nuances in sound that you can achieve with hearing aids. Research shows a 5% percent increase in speech perception when using two hearing aids.
Turn the Volume
With only one hearing aid you are more likely to crank up the volume on your amplified ear. This can cause your “good ear” to work less, while the hearing aided ear could actually become over extended and damaged from excess volume. One hearing aid is also more likely to pick up feedback and interference, causing unneeded frustration with hearing. It is common for loud sounds to be less tolerable when using one hearing aid only. Keep your stress levels down with two hearing aids.
Higher Hearing Aid Satisfaction
Hearing aid users that choose to use both hearing aids report higher overall satisfaction with their hearing aids. While it may seem that you are making your life easier when using only one hearing aid, nothing could be further from the truth.
Contact us to set up a hearing test. We can identify the level of your hearing loss in both ears and help you calibrate your hearing aids to hear your best, no matter where you go.