On many occasions after providing a full hearing assessment I get asked the question “can I just have one hearing aid?” I believe this is because of two reasons; one is the fear of wearing a hearing aid and the wearer not wanting others to know that they have one, so maybe one is just less noticeable than two? or the not knowing and understanding of how they work and what they do.
Our ears work together.
I would always recommend a pair of hearing aids if there is a hearing loss in both ears or it would be a bit like wearing a pair of prescription glasses with only one lens in. You have two ears that work together to detect where the noise is coming from and send these signals to your brain for it to be processed into understandable sounds.
With normal hearing the brain can pick out important noises like speech in a noisy environment and give it preferential treatment as the noise coming into both ears is the same level, known as binaural hearing. If you only aid one ear and put yourself back in that situation you are making it more difficult for your brain to distinguish the speech from the noise as it will be hearing louder from the aided side.
Where did that sound come from?
Two hearing aids make it easier for sound localisation. Your brain needs to be receiving noise from both ears to be able to locate where that sound is coming from, for instance walking down the road you will want to know which direction that siren is coming from, which side has your friend just spoken to you from? We learn from a very early age to turn our head to the direction of sound whether this is for a comforting sound a friends voice or a warning sound the sound of an alarm this can only be done if both ears are working together.
Two Hearing aids work like two ears
Each hearing aid is programmed to each ears individual loss and they work together as a pair to enhance the binaural hearing process to give you all round hearing. Wearing two hearing aids gives the wearer a fuller all round sound, there would be a temptation if only wearing one hearing aid to turn up the volume which would create distortion and feedback rather than a more natural listening experience that you are more used to.
Use it or lose it
Keeping our brains stimulated. Now more than ever we are focused on keeping our selves active and healthy and we shouldn’t forget about or ears and how they can help exercise parts of our brain. It has been well documented lately about the links between hearing loss and cognitive decline. Our ears are just one way of providing exercise to our brain. If you keep both ears receiving noise this provides stimulation to both the left and right auditory centres keeping these parts of the brain active and can reduce the chances of developing an early onset dementia. Putting ourselves in to different listening situations in the garden to hear the birds, on the phone with our friends and family these are lovely things to do but much more enjoyable if you can hear the sounds properly.
Everybody is different
There will be occasions where only one hearing aid is needed or a specific device is needed due to a certain type of hearing loss each person we see is treated as an individual each person’s life style, needs and difficulties are discussed in great detail and taken in to account before a recommendation is made as no two ears are the same.