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Do I Really Need Two Hearing Aids?
People used to ask me if they really had to get two hearing aids. Today, more and more folks understand the importance of keeping the sound balanced in their ears.
Our brain needs the combined signal from both ears to tell us what direction a sound comes from. Let’s say we have equal hearing in both ears. A sound is coming from the left side. That sound reaches the left ear sooner and with a touch more volume than in the right ear. The brain says, “Aha! The sound came from the left!”
Plug one ear and go about your day. You will soon find that, although you can get by, your ability to tell where sounds come from is lost. Try crossing a busy street with one ear. On second thought, don’t. What once was automatic is now a risky proposition.
Go to a noisy restaurant and try to have a conversation. You’ll see that you need more volume to hear with one ear than you did with two. And the little automatic adjustments in how we hold our head to hear in noise don’t work using one ear. Our brain needs the combined signal from both ears to “focus” on one conversation in a noisy room. And where do most of us have the greatest problems hearing? In a noisy room.
Sure, you can hear more sound by increasing the volume in just one ear, but understanding speech and locating sound is not just a volume issue, it’s also an issue of keeping the sound balanced. Hearing in noise requires us to “focus” our hearing, and that happens only with two balanced ears. So, if you have hearing loss in each ear, you need a hearing aid in each ear.
Note The typical hearing loss is a gradual change at about the same rate in both ears. To determine if you have “usable” hearing in each ear, you must have a comprehensive hearing exam by an audiologist. If one ear is deteriorating at a much faster rate than the other, a visit to a physician for further evaluation is recommended.