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When you are considering the best treatment options for your hearing loss, it is important to understand how your hearing works and to best support its natural functioning. One question we often hear is whether using one hearing aid would offer similar benefits to a pair of hearing aids. While a single hearing aid can offer some sound enhancement, unfortunately, it cannot perform some of the more nuanced assistive functions that a pair of hearing aids can offer.
Bilateral Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can occur in different configurations between your two ears. Unilateral hearing loss means that significant hearing loss exists in only one ear, while bilateral hearing loss means that hearing loss is present in both ears. Even within bilateral hearing loss, the ability to hear may be different between your two ears, and comprehending speech may be easier when it is coming from a specific side of your head. This is why your hearing specialist tests the performance of each ear individually and will program your hearing aids to meet the specific hearing challenges of each ear.
The Limits of Single Hearing Aids
Treating hearing loss is an investment in your health, and we understand that a single hearing aid may seem like an efficient solution to alleviating stress and communication issues stemming from hearing loss. However, it is important to understand the limits of treating bilateral hearing loss with a single hearing aid and why it is not recommended.
Having two ears performs an important function in addition to simply receiving sound waves from vibrations in the air. Our brain uses the lag between when sound is picked up by each ear to triangulate the direction of the sound’s source. This is the subtle skill that allows you to easily follow who is talking in a conversation, or get out of the way when you hear danger approaching. This understanding of where sound is coming from plays a surprisingly significant role in how we prioritize sound within our hearing. Without it, we have trouble focusing on specific important sounds and following conversation.
In bilateral hearing loss, there is an impairment of the ability to detect both the presence of sound and its direction. While single hearing aids can enhance the range of sound detected in a single ear, it will not significantly improve your ability to determine the directionality of a sound, thus falling short of the feeling of how you “naturally” hear.
The Power of Two
When you have significant bilateral hearing loss, treating your hearing loss with a pair of hearing aids will likely be the most effective solution. Modern hearing aids contain compact and powerful digital sound processing that is not only capable of enhancing sound in nuanced and adaptable ways, it can also detect and convey the small sound lag between ears making it possible to regain a sense of sound directionality.
Using a pair of hearing aids also creates a more balanced way of hearing sound. In bilateral hearing loss, hearing is compromised in both ears, and a pair of hearing aids can be used to accommodate the specific hearing loss of each ear. Using a single hearing aid, hearing becomes overly reliant on a single side of the head and does not assist in directional hearing or sound prioritization.
A pair of hearing aids uses digitally calibrated sound enhancement to best replicate the experience of natural, undamaged hearing. While most hearing loss is permanent, a pair of hearing aids offers a path to better, fuller hearing. Hearing aid use can reduce the frustration, stress and health impacts of untreated hearing loss, with a pair of hearing aids offering significant performance benefits over relying on a single device.
Treatment Is Key
Your hearing is important and when hearing loss goes unaddressed it can create consequences throughout our lives. Untreated hearing loss often gives rise to communication problems and quality of life deterioration. When hearing loss is not treated it can also result in health problems such as declining cognitive performance and falling accidents.
The earlier you treat hearing loss, the easier it is to adapt to, and the less impact hearing loss will have on your overall well being. That said, treating hearing loss at any stage has important benefits. If you live with hearing loss, the time to address it is now.