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Hearing Aids for Both Ears - Why two hearing aids are better than one

By: Paul Harrison Updated: 20th January 2022 in: Hearing Aid Advice, Latest News, Articles
Hearing Aids for Both Ears - Do I really need 2 hearing aids?

Hearing Aids for Both Ears

Do you need hearing aids for both ears?

 

One hearing aid or two?

You might have started the process of getting your hearing checked and with that comes an array of questions about how to go about it.  You might even be wondering "Do I really need two hearing aids?" and you wouldn't be the only one, as this is a popular query at Hearing Aid UK.

If you are considering hearing aids but are uncertain as to whether or not you need two then this information may be of use. The vast majority of people with a hearing loss suffer from impairment to both ears. Having a hearing loss in one ear only is quite rare and usually requires a medical referral. 

When someone is being referred to me by a GP - I am assuming that the person actually has a hearing loss in both ears.  This is generally because most people have hearing loss in both ears - even more so if the hearing loss is age-related.

 

Hearing aids in both ears

When choosing spectacles, nobody in their right mind would tell their optician to put the plain glass on one side so why question a hearing aid audiologist? One reason may be the cost involved. An average hearing aid costs around £1000 and obviously having two aids doubles this cost.

Historically the NHS used to provide one hearing aid to most people unless their hearing loss was more severe. The public’s perception was therefore that only people with particularly bad hearing need two hearing aids. Gladly this is no longer the case and most patients are now fitted with two hearing aids.

 

Do I need 2 hearing aids?

Hearing Aids for Both Ears 

Why two hearing aids are better than one

Wearing two hearing aids is far better for you than one hearing aid.  We would always advise wearing two hearing aids, as you will simply hear better if you do.  A hearing loss in both ears is called bilateral hearing and because we only have one brain it is also easier for the brain to distinguish and process sound signals from both ears.

Apart from the obvious need for amplification to each impaired ear and solid research into the matter, there are several other significant reasons why two hearing aids are better than one – assuming the person has a hearing loss in both ears. 

There are also a handful of exceptions to wearing two hearing aids, which you can read further down the page.  But, let's start with some of the facts that indicate that two hearing aids is better than one.

 

Localisation

The brain decodes information from both ears and compares and contrasts them. By analysing the minuscule time delays as well as the difference in the loudness of each sound reaching the ears enables the person to accurately locate a sound source.

Being able to accurately locate the direction of a sound is very useful in everyday life in a whole host of situations. Perhaps a more scary disadvantage of poor localisation is safety when crossing a road.

 

Less amplification required

"Binaural summation” means that the hearing aids can be set at a lower volume setting than wearing one hearing aid.  None of your hearing aids will need to be turned up as high as you would have to if you were to only wear one.  This means you might only need smaller hearing aid models, due to not requiring as much power and you can also conserve your battery power at the same time.

 

Head shadow effect

If you’re really only hearing on one side and someone tries to speak to you on your “bad side” then it’s quite impractical and perhaps embarrassing to try to turn your head 180 degrees.

 

Noise reduction

The brain has its own built-in noise reduction which is much more effective when it is receiving information from both ears. Essentially, background noise, which is the scourge of the hearing aid wearer is actually exacerbated by wearing only one hearing instrument.

 

Hearing aids for both ears

Hearing Aids for Both ears

Auditory Deprivation - A real risk

 

Word recognition & clear speech

In our experience, when you wear two hearing aids, both ears pick up the sound and get the stimulation needed to continue optimum performance.  The biggest comparison between one and two hearing aids is distinguishing words.  In short, it is highly possible to experience a reduction in word recognition when you wear just one hearing aid.

You may also find that you can hear speech with only one hearing aid, but the chances are it won't be clear.  However, when you wear two hearing aids you can gain from clear conversation and sound understanding.  It goes without saying that stereo sound is better than mono so why would anyone want to compromise on such an important sense?

There are other benefits to binaural hearing but these are the main ones. If your hearing aid audiologist has recommended two hearing aids then they have done so for good reason. Don’t think they’re just trying to make a double sale - it's not a con!

 

Are two hearing aids better than one

Hearing Aids for Both Ears

The benefits of wearing hearing aids for both ears - At a glance:

 

  • Two hearing aids fully stimulate your brain.
  • You're at less risk of auditory deprivation with hearing aids for both ears.
  • You will experience a better soundscape and sound quality with two hearing aids.
  • Your hearing aids amplification will not need to be as high.
  • You'll have a greater idea as to which direction sound is coming from.

 

Hearing aids for one ear

And here is a common exception.  Is there any circumstance where you might need hearing aids for one ear only?  There have been some cases when people who are suffering from cognitive decline have still benefited from just wearing one hearing aid.  This is also relevant when the person in mention has hearing loss in both ears.  It is believed that this is due to the brain being too stimulated.

 

I have hearing loss in both ears

 

Do I really need two hearing aids?

If you think you might have hearing loss in one (single-sided hearing) or both ears and wondering whether you actually need hearing aids in both ears contact us free on 0800 567 7621 for a phone consultation, support and advice going forward.

 

 

Read Next:  Rechargeable hearing aids

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Paul Harrison
Hearing Aid Advisor
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This information was written by Paul Harrison - Audiology Expert

Meet Paul Harrison, Audiology Expert

Managing Director & founder of Hearing Aid UK, with over 20 years of audiology experience and a member of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists Council (BSHAA) between 2015-2020.

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