Do I really need 2 hearing aids?

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 medical referral.

I am assuming that the person actually has a hearing loss in both ears

When choosing spectacles, nobody in their right mind would tell their optician to put 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.

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

Localization. The brain decodes information from both ears and compares and contrasts them. By analyzing the miniscule time delays as well as the difference in 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 localization is safety when crossing a road.

 

Less amplification required. A phenomena known as “binaural summation” means that the hearing aids can be set at a lower volume setting than wearing one hearing aid.

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 it’s 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.

Sound quality. 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 2 hearing aids then they have done so for good reason. Don’t think they’re just trying to make a double sale.