When you are diagnosed with hearing loss, your audiogram can say a lot about how your hearing issues are configured. Not only can it show your hearing specialist what specific frequencies of sound you find challenging, it will indicate whether you hearing loss exists in one ear (unilateral hearing loss) or both ears (bilateral hearing loss). If your hearing loss is bilateral, your audiogram can also determine if the hearing loss is similar between the two ears (symmetrical loss) or if it has significant differences (asymmetrical loss).
There are a plethora of options for treating bilateral hearing loss effectively through hearing aids. With bilateral hearing loss, the hearing specialist you work with will almost always recommend a matched pair of hearing aids to assist your hearing for the most comprehensive hearing care.
You may, however, wonder if one hearing aid could effectively do the work of two. For most people with bilateral hearing loss, using only a single hearing aid will greatly detract from the advantages hearing aids can offer.
Just as we use both our eyes to achieve proper depth perception, we need both ears for our spatial sense of sound. Our brain is capable of attuning itself to the slight lag in time between when a sound wave reaches the ear it is closest to and the ear it is farthest from. By processing this information, our brain can triangulate the direction a sound comes from.
When only one ear is involved in hearing we lose most of our ability to place sounds in space. If we don’t directly see the source of a noise, such as a person’s lips moving to talk, or someone dropping a spoon on the floor, the source of a sound can be difficult to find and confusing to understand. Selective hearing is the process where our auditory system prioritizes what we hear, allowing us to focus on a conversation while ignoring background noise.
Today, hearing aids take advantage of the way bilateral hearing functions to emulate selective hearing better than ever before, but they need two hearing aids to do so. By treating hearing loss with only one hearing aid, the untreated ear is seldom able to pull its weight in helping with the spatial sense of sound. A single hearing aid is also unable to assist much with restoring our selective hearing abilities.
Not only is sound location better with two hearing aids, your sound quality will improve when using a pair of devices as well. When a single hearing aid is used to compensate for bilateral hearing loss, the volume has to be set higher than it would on the hearing aids of a balanced pair. The louder volume on a single hearing aid has disadvantages. Sudden loud noises can be jolting and higher volume is more prone to feedback.
Using two hearing aids at a more moderate volume can offer you a better hearing range and more reliable sound quality. A set of hearing aids also gives a more “natural” feeling to your hearing and can be better used to treat tinnitus issues if they are present.
Avoid Progressive Weakening
Another downside of opting for a single hearing aid instead of a pair is the effect it has on the ear that gets left untreated. While using a hearing aid on a single ear helps support that ear’s hearing loss, it also makes the untreated ear weaker.
With any hearing loss, the brain reorganizes itself to compensate for missing information and re-purpose unused resources. When one ear is significantly stronger at hearing than the other, cognitive connections are gradually pulled away from the weaker ear, making hearing loss even more pronounced. Using a single hearing aid hastens deeper hearing loss in the untreated ear and so your hearing becomes unbalanced.
Are you looking for hearing care that understands your needs and can help you find the best hearing solutions? Hearing Health is here for you. Our hearing specialists offer testing and care tailored to you. When it comes to finding the right therapies for hearing rehabilitation, Hearing Health can match you with the right options for your hearing and lifestyle, with a wide selection of reliable products from the top brands in hearing care. Don’t delay – if you have questions about your hearing, Hearing Health has answers – contact us today!