When given the choice to hear binaurally, an overwhelming majority of consumers who have hearing loss in both ears choose two hearing aids over one.
- Better localization. Localization is the ability to tell the direction of sound. For example, localization allows you to determine from which direction someone is speaking to you. Also, localization helps you determine from which direction traffic is coming or where your children or grandchildren are playing. The brain needs input from both ears to determine where sound is coming from. Simply put, with binaural hearing, you will better detect where sounds are coming from in every situation.
- More balanced hearing. Binaural hearing, or hearing in both ears, results in a feeling of balanced reception of sound, also known as the stereo effect. Monaural hearing, or hearing in just one ear, creates the perception that the unaided ear is plugged. This is an unnatural feeling and is one reason why people with two hearing aids will choose not to wear a single hearing aid if the other hearing aid is broken.
- Reduced tendency to favor one ear. If you know anybody who has a “good” ear and a “bad” ear you will notice that when they talk to somebody sitting on the “bad” ear side they will tend to turn the better ear towards the person. Those with symmetrical hearing don’t have to use preferential seating and can hear the conversation regardless of which side it’s directed to.
- Better understanding of speech, especially in group and noisy situations. Research shows that people wearing two hearing aids routinely understand speech and conversation significantly better than people wearing just one hearing aid. This is especially noticeable when listening in background noise. By wearing two hearing aids rather than one, selective listening is more easily achieved. This means your brain can more easily focus on the conversation you want to hear, and mentally block out the sounds that you don’t want to hear. It is important to realize that we hear in our brains, not in our ears. Your brain processes the information received from both ears to paint an auditory picture of your surroundings.
- Reduces the auditory deprivation effect. Binaural hearing keeps both ears active resulting in potentially less hearing loss deterioration. Research has shown that when only one hearing aid is worn, the unaided ear tends to lose its ability to understand speech clearly. This is clinically called the auditory deprivation effect. It is similar to muscle atrophy; if you don’t use it, you lose it. Wearing two hearing aids keeps both ears active.
- Tinnitus Masking. Most people report an improvement in their tinnitus when wearing hearing aids. For some, the tinnitus is totally gone and for others the volume of the tinnitus is greatly reduced. If a person with tinnitus wears a hearing aid in only one ear, there will still be ringing in the ear that does not have a hearing aid.
- Better sound quality. When you listen to a stereo system, you use both speakers to get the smoothest, sharpest, most natural sound quality. The same can be said of hearing aids. By wearing two hearing aids, you increase your hearing range from 180 degrees reception with just one instrument, to 360 degrees. This greater range provides a better sense of balance and sound quality.
- Hearing is less tiring and listening more pleasant. More binaural hearing aid wearers report that listening and participating in conversation is more enjoyable with two instruments, instead of just one. This is because they do not have to strain to hear with the better ear. Thus, binaural hearing can help make life more relaxing.
- Greater distance of hearing. A person can hear sounds from a further distance with two ears, rather than just one. A voice that’s barely heard at 10 feet with one ear can be heard up to 40 feet with two ears.
While a hearing healthcare professional can best determine if you are a candidate for two hearing aids, the ultimate decision-maker concerning binaural instruments is the person who will wear them. It is important that the person with the hearing loss be given the chance to experience binaural hearing aid amplification before a decision on one or two hearing aids is made.