January 3, 2012

Ask the Audiologist – Can I Wear Only One Hearing Aid?

By Janet Liddicoat, Au.D., CCC-A
Audiology Consultants, P.C.

Can I Wear Only One Hearing Aid?

When it comes to the question of whether or not you can wear only one hearing aid, ask yourself this question. Would you only get one lens for your pair of glasses if you had vision loss in both eyes? Most people would get a full pair of glasses to help them see better, so why not have two hearing aids to help you hear better?

Technically, you can just wear one hearing aid, and in a few cases, that is exactly what is recommended. Those cases usually are for those with one normal hearing ear and one with hearing loss. When your audiologist recommends two hearing aids, it is usually because you have hearing loss in both ears. The use of two hearing aids will help you in many ways; one way is to help you to have the ability to locate where sounds are coming from better. Our brains work to locate sounds using different signals from our ears. Our brains can tell when the sound reached each ear and most importantly which ear it reached first. By doing this, it can locate where a sound is coming from in your environment. If you had a hearing loss in both ears, but only wore the one hearing aid, your brain is getting signals that may not make sense and might direct you to the wrong location. Two hearing aids will allow the brain to function normally during this task.

Another way you benefit from wearing two hearing aids is by hearing better in noise. When the brain is hearing from all around you equally, it can filter out some of the noise in the room. By doing so, it can then pick up the speech nearest you and help focus your attention to that speech. This allows you to hear and understand the speech better and carry on a conversation, even in a noisy situation.

Two hearing aids can also provide you with a natural boost of loudness. When we hear equally with our ears we don’t need sounds to be as loud to hear them. When people only wear one hearing aid, the sound level is usually increased by an average of six decibels. With two hearing aids that level can be brought down and possibly be more comfortable for you.

Along with the natural boost in hearing, you are also having a more pleasant listening experience and feel more balanced. With two hearing aids, you are not straining as much to hear the sounds and speech in your environment. This makes listening to family and friends easier and you can concentrate on them rather than to each word they are saying and wondering if you understood them correctly.

We were made with two ears and feel more natural when we hear from both ears equally. The way our ears pick up sounds and deliver that message to our brains helps us understand speech, locate sounds and are aware of our environments. With only one hearing aid with hearing loss in both ears, it will be more difficult to know exactly where the car you hear in the parking lot is coming from. Two hearing aids can also provide an overall safe feeling for the user.

Overall, two hearing aids will help you locate sounds, hear better in noise, give you a natural boost in sound, make listening more pleasant and give you a sense of balance between your ears. Even though we know that two hearing aids will perform better than one alone, some people just feel more comfortable with one. Discuss the differences with your audiologist to figure out what would work best for you.