Are Two Hearing Aids Better Than One

Are Two Hearing Aids Better Than One?

In hearing aids by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

If you have recently received a hearing loss diagnosis, you are probably learning a lot, very quickly, about how hearing loss is best treated – and trying to find the best options for your needs. One question we frequently hear from people is whether it is truly necessary to get hearing aids as a set of two, or if getting one hearing aid can perform just as well while costing less. 

More often than not, hearing aids work best as a paired set, and while one hearing aid may cost half as much, it delivers less than half of the benefits of a set of hearing aids. Let’s take a look at how hearing aids treat hearing loss and why two hearing aids are most often better than one.

Replicating Healthy Hearing

Have you ever thought about why we have two ears? Having ears on each side of our head gives us a spatial sense of sound. Just like we integrate the vision from each of our two eyes into a spatial sense of vision, spatial sound allows you to place where a sound is coming from. 

Think of the difference between “mono” and “stereo” in listening to music – stereo sound brings a much more immersive music experience, while sound in mono all comes is much more one-dimensional. Our brain is performing a miraculous calibration with everything we hear, wherein it uses the small lag in time between when a sound reaches each ear to assess the direction the sound wave is traveling from. We use this directionality in our hearing to perform complex feats of listening – like following a conversation between many people, or finding a friend in a crowd. Being able to assess sound directionality is a key part of hearing comprehension.

When we seek to treat hearing loss, we want to replicate healthy hearing as closely as possible. This is where two hearing aids can help far more than a single hearing aid. Two hearing aids make your hearing more dynamic, not just amplifying sounds but also restoring a sense of directionality that is integral to how we hear.  

User Satisfaction, Brain Activation

People who use two hearing aids instead of a single hearing aid report far more user satisfaction. In part, this is because two hearing aids offer a much more complete treatment of hearing loss. When using two hearing aids, you are actually activating more of your auditory system. Our hearing relies on the pathways of the auditory system to send sound signals. When hearing loss is left untreated entirely, the established pathways of our hearing begin to erode, and cognitive strain is created. Treating hearing loss is important to avoid this fundamental atrophy of the way we hear. However, when only one side of our hearing loss is treated, i.e. by only using one hearing aid, only that side of our auditory system is stimulated, while the side without the hearing aid can still decline. A pair of hearing aids, balanced to your hearing loss keeps both sides of your hearing active and healthy. 

Using two hearing aids also reduces the amplification and dependence needed on a single hearing aid. When a single hearing aid is asked to do the work of two hearing aids, it often falls short of the challenge. More amplification is often needed in a single hearing aid than in a pair, and even with boosted sound levels, a single device may fall short on sound clarity when compared to a pair of devices. All in all, a hearing aid pair is most likely the best option for your hearing needs.

When One Hearing Aid Works

There are some rare instances where hearing loss may be best treated by a single hearing aid. The first case is an asymmetrical hearing loss, where hearing damage is present in one ear but the other ear demonstrates healthy hearing patterns. In this instance, a hearing aid for the impaired ear can give the person a fuller range of hearing and better directional hearing by making hearing less reliant on a single ear.

A single hearing aid may also be the best choice for those with cognitive impairment such as dementia. In these cases, the audio amplification introduced by a pair of hearing aids may be confusing or too complex for the brain to process properly. A single hearing aid can boost detected sound and comprehension without being overwhelming.

If you have experienced changes in your hearing, it is important to take a hearing test! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.