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Are Two Hearing Aids Better Than One?

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Generally speaking, most people who experience hearing loss will find there is some degree of hearing loss in both ears.

For most people with bilateral hearing loss one hearing aid is better than nothing, however two hearing aids are better than one. Extensive research over the past 30 years has shown that most people will experience greater benefit and satisfaction when wearing two hearing aids instead of just one, and this effect tends to be more significant with greater levels of hearing loss.

There are numerous phenomena related to binaural hearing that help us hear, particularly in noise. Take the location of the sound source, for example – depending on where the sound is coming from, the closest ear will hear the sound at a slightly louder volume than the opposite ear. Similarly, the closer ear will hear the sound earlier than the far ear. These effects are called interaural level differences and interaural time differences. The auditory system and the brain work together to efficiently and effectively combine these and various other fine cues to help us locate sound in space, improve how well we hear speech in noise and also improve the overall quality of sound (including clarity and fullness).

When beginning to wear a new hearing aid, the brain undergoes a period of adjustment during which it learns to reinterpret sounds and those various cues that help us hear in noise. So why not tackle those changes for both ears simultaneously to save time, improve the overall quality of sound and improve the chances that your hearing aid fitting will be successful from the start?

Although it is possible to fit a hearing aid to one ear and plan on fitting the hearing aid at a later date, there is chance that the delay can create more difficulty when starting the second hearing aid fitting. This effect is called delayed auditory deprivation; the ear wearing the hearing aid does well while the unaided ear undergoes a progressive worsening in speech discrimination ability, making the process of adapting to the new hearing aid more difficult later on.

Never hesitate to rely on your clinician to help you navigate through the decision-making process. After all, we’re here to help.

Tania Gora MSc, R.Aud, Aud(C)
Registered Audiologist

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