Are Two Hearing Aids Better Than One?

Have you ever wondered why we have two ears, two eyes, two legs and so on? Not really, we take all these for granted. There is a very sound logic in having two organs or limbs. These organs perform in pairs. The efficiency of two organs performing is higher than a single performing organ. It brings us to the basic question, should we use two Hearing aids or one? Are binaural hearing aids better than monoaural? Are you buying hearing aids for the first time? If so, it is advisable that you should know what to expect at your first Hearing aid fitting session.

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Table of Contents

Do I Need Two Hearing Aids?

Your Audiologist is the best judge to decide. Your Audiogram report indicates the degree or extent of the Hearing loss in each ear. If both your ears have a Hearing loss or binaural hearing loss, then it is advisable to use binaural hearing aids. Use of two hearing devices is also known as Binaural Hearing Aid fitting. Majority of the people suffer from Sensorineural Hearing loss. Hearing Impairment due to Sensorineural hearing loss is generally in both ears. Similarly Hearing loss in both ears is also known as Bilateral Hearing Loss.

Why Two Hearing Aids Are Better Than One?

Let us find out why binaural hearing aids are better than one. As mentioned earlier, some of our organs work in pairs. Our ear is one such organ. To understand better, do read our article How does my Ear Work. Mentioned below are some of the advantages of using two Hearing aids or binaural fitting.

For some people, price could be a reason for not using two Hearing aids. Every brand offers a wide range of hearing devices at affordable prices. These hearing aids too have suitable features which are helpful for a normal lifestyle. It is important to select a Hearing aid which suits your lifestyle and needs.

Advantages of Using Binaural Hearing Aids

1. Localisation or Source of Sound

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Localisation of Sound. Determining the direction of the source of sound

Localisation or source of sound gives us a sense of direction. We know the direction from where the sound is coming. As a simple reflex, we turn towards the source or towards the person talking or a car honking. The sound picked up by both the ears is simultaneously send to our brain for processing. The brain processes the signals received from the left and the right ear. After processing both the signals it informs us of the direction of the sound or from which direction the sound originated. We automatically turn towards the direction of the sound.

Comparison Between one and two hearing aids diagram
Comparison Between one and two hearing aids

How Does The Brain Judge The Direction of Sound?

The brain calculates the time difference to judge the direction of the sound. If the sound signal reaches both the ears at the same time, the source of sound is in the centre. If the sound signal reaches the left ear first, then the source of sound is towards the left.

So, can i wear just one hearing aid? The answer is a big NO. Nature has given us two ears or a binaural hearing system. A person using only one hearing aid will not know the direction of the sound.

What are the Problems with Use of One Hearing Aid?

The following problems may occur in case if single hearing aid use or if the localisation or source of sound is not clear.

  • It can be dangerous when the car honks and we look in the wrong direction. Two hearing aids are necessary for safety.
  • Someone calls out to us and we look in the wrong direction.
  • We are not sure who is speaking during office meetings and group discussion.

What is Binaural Hearing Communication?

Our Brain coordinates the signals from the left and the right ear. Manufacturers also provide this facility in Hearing aids. This is a feature called Binaural hearing Communication. Read in detail about this feature. And other features available in advanced Digital Hearing Aids.

Binaural Hearing Communication diagram
Binaural Hearing Communication

2. How Binaural Hearing Aids Help in Reducing Background Noise?

Background noise reduction is also an important reason why two are better than one. The biggest challenge for the manufacturers is reducing the background noise. The hearing aid amplifies the noise along with the speech signal. Advanced digital hearing devices have excellent noise reduction features. Background noise reduction works much better if the person is using two hearing aids.

when we use two hearing aids, each instrument is set at a lower volume setting. Lower volume setting results in lower noise levels.

3. How Do Binaural Aids Help in Reducing Distortion?

In the case of binaural hearing aids, the volume setting of each instrument can be set low. This results in better speech quality and higher clarity of sound. In the case of one hearing aid use, a higher volume has to be set.

4. Use of Smaller or Invisible Hearing Aids in Case of Two Hearing Aids

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Invisible in the Canal Hearing Aid in the Ear

Everyone wants a small Hearing device which is not visible to others. High powered hearing aids are big in size. Parts like the receiver and the complete circuit are big so they deliver high output. The battery size also increases to meet the demand of high amplification. This increases the overall size of the Hearing aid. Hearing devices delivering lower output are generally smaller in size. One can select a smaller size hearing aid in case of binaural fitting whereas, a single hearing aid user will need a bigger size.

5. How Does Use of Two Hearing Aids Reduce the Head Shadow Effect?

If we are using a hearing aid in the left ear and someone calls from the right. Our head interferes with the sound. The sound has to travel around the head to reach the ear with the hearing aid resulting in a loss of clarity, this is the head shadow effect. In case of two Hearing devices, the sound does not have to travel around the head.

6. How Do Two Hearing Aids Reduce  Auditory Deprivation?

Exercising regularly keeps us fit and healthy. Similarly, our hearing system also needs exercise to stay fit. If we use only one Hearing aid, the other ear does not get the required stimulation. The hearing loss increases much rapidly in the ear without a Hearing aid. Hence use of two Hearing aids reduces Auditory Deprivation.

7. How Do Two Hearing Aids Help in Reducing Stress?

Straining to catch a conversation results in increased stress. Increased stress causes tiredness and fatigue. Increased stress leads to other medical issues in people with hypertension and diabetes. Use of binaural Hearing devices reduce stress and related medical issues.

When is it OK to Use One Hearing Aid?

There are certain conditions where one hearing aid use is acceptable.

  • Some people may have a Mild or Moderate Hearing loss in one ear. The other ear can be normal. In this case, a person can use one hearing aid.
  • In cases where one has lost total hearing in one ear. One ear can have 100% loss due to an accident. A hearing aid in the ear with total loss does not help much, in this case, a Hearing aid in the better ear is advisable.

Use of a Hearing aids is advisable even in case of Mild hearing loss. Use of binaural hearing aids makes the quality of sound very close to natural hearing.

About the Author
Amrik Singh Arora Founder EarGuru photo
Amrik Singh Arora  is the founder of EarGuru – the Ear Health Blog. An Engineer by qualification, he has over 20 years of experience in manufacturing and sale of Hearing aids, Audiometers and Assistive listening devices. He was the Secretary of the Hearing Association of India from 2013 to 2017 and was last Associated with Starkey India as a Director-Business Development.

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