Why You Should Treat Bilateral Hearing Loss with Two Hearing Aids

In hearing aids, hearing loss by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Laurie Duffy, M.S. has been a licensed audiologist for over 30 years. After working for many years for non-profit rehabilitation agencies and other audiology practices, she established her own practice in 1999.
Laurie Duffy, M.S.

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[HearCare RI] Blog #1: Why You Should Treat Bilateral Hearing Loss with Two Hearing Aids

Hearing loss occurs with complications in our auditory system, which complicates the way we receive and process sound. Hearing loss can manifest in one ear or it can be recognized as being a loss of hearing in both ears. The latter is the more common type of hearing loss and is referred to as bilateral hearing loss, or BHL. Bilateral hearing loss can be caused by a wide range of instances or factors. When hearing loss occurs, whether it is in one or both ears, it is important to seek treatment. Here, we look at bilateral hearing loss.

Symptoms of bilateral hearing loss

The symptoms of bilateral hearing loss are those associated with most hearing loss.  What defines bilateral hearing loss is reduced hearing in both ears. A bilateral hearing loss can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical. When it is symmetrical, the hearing loss is about the same in both ears. When it is asymmetrical the one ear performs than the other, but in both cases there is a hearing loss in both ears.  When the bilateral hearing loss is both conductive and sensorineural, it is called a mixed hearing loss.

Symptoms of bilateral hearing loss differ from person to person and different instances, but usually include:

  • Hearing speech as muffled or indistinct
  • Difficulty understanding speech, particularly in environments with a lot of background noise
  • Trouble hearing high frequency of sound such as people speaking consonants
  • Frequently asking others to repeat themselves
  • Need to turn up radio or television audio even when others aren’t having difficulty hearing
  • Withdrawal from participation in conversations and avoiding social situations
  • Experiencing exhaustion after family, social, or professional gatherings due to the struggle of keep up with conversations

Sensorineural or conductive hearing loss

Bilateral hearing loss can be classed as being conductive or sensorineural which are two classifications of loss. It is important to have all forms of hearing loss thoroughly investigated and properly diagnosed by a appropriately qualified professional. There are many different forms of hearing loss and even two people suffering from bilateral hearing loss may have different issues.

Causes of sensorineural bilateral hearing loss

A bilateral hearing loss can be caused by many factors, most commonly including age, noise exposure, heredity (genes) and medication, which all mostly lead to a sensorineural hearing loss. The causes of sensorineural hearing loss may be congenital or it could be caused by ototoxic medications. The fact that so many different factors can have an impact on why a person suffers from hearing loss means that there is a need to have it routinely checked not only to establish the level of loss but any deterioration.

Causes of conductive bilateral hearing loss

If the hearing loss is a conductive form of hearing loss, this is caused the ineffectiveness of sound waves being passed from the outer ear. This form of hearing loss is usually more commonly associated with physical damage, including a perforation of the eardrum or a large build-up of wax. Bilateral hearing loss may be caused by factors in the outer, middle or inner ear or a combination of these areas. 

This sort of hearing loss is far more likely to be able to be treated by medical professionals, however hearing loss that occurs suddenly through physical damage, infection or loud noises is not always reversible.

Treatments of bilateral hearing loss

Cases of bilateral hearing loss that are conductive can often be treated with surgery. Sensorineural bilateral hearing loss is most often best treated with hearing aids. In some cases of bilateral hearing loss both surgery and the use of hearing aids are recommended. Our auditory system is made up of our two ears, our hearing nerves and the brain, work together to decipher the sounds we hear, understand speech and de-prioritize background noise. Wearing two hearing aids, also called binaural hearing aids, makes sense because the hearing loss in both ears must be treated to hear to your fullest potential.  If you suspect that you have a bilateral hearing loss, you should contact us at HearCare in Rhode Island and set up an appointment for a hearing test. Setting up a hearing test is the first step in a road to healthier hearing.