Are Two Ears Really Better than One? Part 1 of 2.

Are Two Ears Really Better than One? Part 1 of 2.

You’ve just been diagnosed with hearing loss in both ears, and the audiologist has recommended two hearing aids to improve your ability to communicate. However, a common lingering thought that pops up is: “do I really need two hearing aids?”

There are many reasons why audiologists recommend wearing a hearing aid on both ears if both ears have hearing loss, and we will delve into those in a moment. But some food for thought:

  • Think about your glasses; they have a lens on each eye…right? You haven’t left one eye with vision loss and only corrected the vision in one eye.
  • Think about when you exercise – you don’t lift weights with just one arm do you? You work to strengthen both arms equally.

The Benefits of Helping Both Ears (By using 2 Hearing Aids)

  • Sounds are more natural with 2 ears
    • The brain relies on input from both ears to accurately listen to the environment. The brain requires detailed  information from both ears to determine the direction of a sound. If you have hearing loss in both ears, two hearing aids will make it easier to locate sounds in space.
    • Research has shown that speech is clearer with two hearing aids. Since the brain relies on input from both ears to analyze the environment, it makes sense that the more information they brain has to understand the message, the clearer the speech message will be.
  • Better Understanding in Noise: one of the most common reasons why people get their hearing checked is that they have trouble understanding speech in noisy places such as a restaurant. In noise, the brain heavily relies on information from both ears to separate speech from noise, focus in on the speech and filter out the background noise.
  • Listening is less fatiguing with two hearing aids because the brain has all the information it needs to piece together the puzzle, rather than leaving you to fill in the blanks.  With only “one ear” (wearing only one aid), you are forcing one ear to do the work of two ears.
  • People report they feel “more balanced” with two hearing aids than with only one. With balanced input coming from two ears, the brain can rely on each ear equally to listen. Also, with two hearing aids, the sound volume does not have to be as loud to experience the same level of clarity, resulting in greater listening comfort.
  • Both ears will stay strong: If you have hearing loss in both ears and only put a hearing aid on one ear, it is similar to having weak arms and only lifting weights with one arm. Not only will the unaided ear stay weak, it may actually get even weaker as the brain will rely more heavily on the aided ear. Similar to muscles, if you don’t use it, you can lose it. An ear with hearing loss should have adequate acoustic input (via a hearing aid) to stimulate the pathways to keep them healthy and active; this finding is key to long term listening success. 
  • Patient experiences: Research has shown that people who wear two hearing aids are more satisfied with their overall listening experiences than those who only wear one. So both the expert in hearing (the audiologist) and hearing aid users find benefit to wearing two hearing aids if necessary! 
  • Most of the latest and greatest hearing aid technology is designed to work with input from both hearing aids. Today’s hearing aids are constantly communicating with each other to paint the most accurate sound picture possible. While each hearing aid works independently to analyze the environment, they also communicate wirelessly to decide the appropriate way to react to the sound environment. This results in better spatial awareness, and better hearing in noise.

Remember: Since the brain is wired to work with input from 2 eyes for vision, 2 legs for balance, and 2 ears for hearing, sometimes it is best to trust that Mother Nature had it right the first time!


Stay tuned until next time: part 2  dives into the circumstances where your audiologist may only recommend one hearing aid despite having hearing loss in both ears.