When diagnosed with a hearing loss, many patients ask whether they must wear one hearing aid or two. The answer: if you have a hearing loss in both ears you need to wear two hearing aids. There are a number of reasons any reputable audiologist would recommend wearing two hearing aids:
- We have two ears for a reason, to assist us in balance and most importantly localization of sound. Localization refers to the ability to identify where sounds are coming from. It is important to localize sounds in order to orientate ourselves. A real life example would be hearing emergency vehicles when driving. When we hear a siren we need to be able to localize the sound and determine where the vehicle is approaching from.
- When a hearing loss is left untreated it causes auditory deprivation. When we have a hearing loss the auditory nerve is not adequately stimulated and becomes lazy over time. The point of a hearing aid is to stimulate and exercise the auditory nerve ensuring it remains active and responsive to sounds.Wearing a hearing aid in one ear will ensure the auditory nerve for that ear remains active whilst the other ears nerve will continue to weaken without amplification.
- Research shows us that one hearing aid is effective in improving hearing abilities in quiet listening situations, however it falls short in noisy environments. This is because both ears are important when listening in challenging and noisy environments.
The need for hearing amplification is dependent on your lifestyle, your need for refined hearing and the degree of your hearing loss. If you are a lawyer, teacher or psychologist where very refined hearing is necessary to discern the nuances of human communication, then even a mild hearing loss can be intolerable. If your hearing interferes with your ability to hear and understand others in any of your life situations, then you should pursue hearing amplification. There are also risks such as auditory deprivation if you leave a hearing loss untreated.
When we have a hearing loss the auditory nerve becomes lazy due to a lack of stimulation. Hearing aids ensure the hearing nerve receives adequate stimulation and provides “exercise to the auditory nerve”. Therefore, wearing a hearing aid ensures that your hearing nerve remains active which provides improved hearing aid outcomes. If someone waits too long to wear a hearing aid the hearing nerve can die away and therefore no hearing aid will be effective in improving the individuals hearing ability.
In the past, many people with high frequency hearing loss or nerve damage have been told their hearing cannot be improved. This may have been true years ago, but with modern advances in technology, nearly 95% of people with a hearing loss CAN be helped.
Only 35% of people with hearing loss are older than 64. Hearing loss affects all age groups. Causes of hearing loss include age-related hearing loss called presbycusis. Noise induced hearing loss is also common and caused by exposure to loud noises in the workplace, listening to loud music or recreational noise such as target shooting without the benefit of hearing protection.
Your hearing loss is more conspicuous than your hearing aids. If you miss the punch line to a joke, or respond inappropriately in a conversation, people may have concerns about your mental acuity. Latest research has revealed that individuals with an untreated hearing loss are up to 30% more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s, Dementia and other progressive neurological diseases. This is because parts of the brain are not adequately stimulated when someone has a hearing loss which causes the brain to weaken over time. It is important to realize the greater implications involved in choosing to leave a hearing loss untreated.
Isn’t that a strange way to look at things? Consider this analogy: It happens to be “normal” for overweight people to have high blood pressure. That doesn’t mean they should not receive treatment for their problem.
Today’s hearing aids are digital and provide amplification based on the loudness of the signal coming into the instrument. The most sophisticated hearing aids keep soft sounds soft, the medium sounds medium and the loud sounds loud. Hearing aids will amplify sounds necessary to understand speech but it is the responsibility of your brain to interpret the sounds provided by the hearing aids.