The simple answer is that we have two ears, just like we have two eyes—and you don’t see a lot of people walking around with monocles these days. That’s because, when you have bad vision, you need to treat both eyes in order to see clearly. The same is true with hearing. If you have hearing loss in both ears (bilateral hearing loss), you’ll need two hearing aids.
Just like our eyes, our ears work in an organized fashion to transmit sounds to the brain, so we can better understand speech and gain a spatial understanding of where sounds are coming from—which is especially important in the presence of background noise and group conversations. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons two hearing aids are better than one for most hearing loss sufferers.
Not being able to hear in noisy situations is a common complaint of people with hearing loss. However, using two hearing aids can help. With only one hearing aid, you would have to turn up the volume higher to hear conversation. But turning up the volume increases the volume for everything—including the noise. On the other hand, with two hearing aids, your brain is better able to locate sound and “tune out” the background noise, making conversation clearer without having to increase the volume.
With two hearing aids, you can more easily “select” the sounds you want to hear. In group conversations, our brains naturally tune in to the people we want to listen to and tune out background noise and other conversations. However, using “selective hearing” is much harder for people with hearing loss. Two hearing aids, working together, are better able to deliver a natural sound experience and let your brain sort out the sounds you want to tune in to. In fact, research shows that people wearing two hearing aids understand speech and conversation significantly better than people wearing one hearing aid. After all, what’s the purpose of wearing hearing aids if not to understand speech better?
The ability to know where a sound is coming from is called localization. In a social gathering, for example, localization allows you to hear from which direction someone is speaking to you. Also, localization helps you determine which direction traffic is coming from or where your children or grandchildren are playing. When you utilize one hearing aid, you lose some of your ability to localize sound. Simply put, with two hearing aids, you will better detect where sounds are coming from in every situation.
When sound enters the ear, it travels through the eardrum and into the cochlea. The cochlea transforms the sound into electrical impulses that are sent through the auditory nerve to the brain. If sound is not entering your ears, the auditory nerve can atrophy from lack of use. Once the nerve is damaged, it’s very hard to regain hearing—if at all. Wearing two hearing aids allows both auditory nerves to remain active and can help slow further hearing loss.
A majority of people who have hearing loss in both ears choose to wear two hearing aids. And those that choose to wear two hearing aids instead of one tend to be more satisfied with their hearing aids and their ability to hear. One reason may be that wearing two hearing aids give the wearer a more natural sound experience, whereas wearing one hearing aid feels unnatural and is more difficult to adapt to.
Overall, if you have hearing loss in both ears, wearing two hearing aids will help you hear more, understand speech better, localize sounds more easily, slow down further hearing loss, and make your experience more enjoyable. Why settle for only hearing half the world, when you could hear all of it with two hearing aids?