When it comes to deciding how to remedy someone’s hearing difficulties, the logical assumption would seem to be that two hearing aids would be the best choice, right?
Well, yes…and no.
It is true that most of us — other than those with a birth defect or injury — have two ears, and in the majority of noise-induced cases, hearing loss occurs in both ears, although not always equally.
Therefore, the dispensing of two hearing aids — referred to clinically as binaural fitting — is far more prevalent than the dispensing of single, or monaural, hearing aids. However, historically this was not the case.
Original Electronic Hearing Aids
The first electronic hearing aids were large and bulky, mandating the amplification of just one ear. It was not until the 1960s and development of behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids that it became more common for the dispensing of two hearing aids versus one.
Advantages of binaural hearing aids
The primary advantage of using two hearing aids is the ability of the wearer to localize the source of sound. This is because the use of two aids allows the brain to process two incoming acoustic signals rather than just one. Obviously, this is can be a boost for communication and understanding of speech, and studies note that binaural hearing aid users are more confident in their surroundings and are relieved at having to exert less effort in daily communication.
Binaural hearing aid use can also assist in safety issues, notably in situations where the location of an emergency vehicle or alarm is vital.
The evidence collected from clinical studies and observations is conclusive: Most people with hearing difficulties do better and are best served by the use of two hearing aids.
When a single hearing aid makes sense
But this is not a cut-and-dried absolute, as there are some individuals who do better with just one hearing aid. In an article published in the September 2005 issue of Journal of American academy of Audiology, researchers suggest that binaural hearing aid users experiencing difficulties in noisy environments remove one hearing aid (the left side), then attempt to determine whether or not their hearing ability improved.
The researchers also discovered that age can be a factor in interference caused by the worse of the two ears, which suggests that going from binaural to monaural hearing aid use in certain situations might be more beneficial for older persons than previously thought. The good news is that there are tests only a clinical audiologist can perform that can determine if the patient is best served by one or two aids.
Another consideration in determining if one or two aids are the appropriate choice is one’s lifestyle. In some cases, a single hearing aid may only be of benefit during certain activities.
And the winner is …
Ultimately, the answer to our question — two hearing aids or one? — is arrived at by the audiologist and patient discussing test results and evaluating lifestyle factors in order to decide on the most appropriate choice.
In most cases, two hearing aids are far and away the best choice. But for some individuals — if not always but at least in some situations — just one aid can be of benefit. To explore the options and get answers to your specific questions, consult with an AudigyCertified™ hearing care professional…because hearing is a wonderful gift!