Have you ever wondered why most animals including us have two ears? We can hear very clearly with just one ear, however using two ears actually helps us track sounds around us. This process is called binaural fusion, in which the brain compares information received from each ear and translates the differences into a unified perception of where the sound is coming from. As you can imagine this can help us navigate the world safely, alerting us to warning sounds such as the growl of a dog, a crying baby or the sound of someone approaching from behind and at what speed. This type of hearing is called binaural hearing and is incredibly useful to us on a daily basis.
So what happens when you lose hearing in one ear? This is referred to as unilateral hearing loss and can make it incredibly difficult to carry on conversation, navigate a busy street and cause confusion at work and home. The most common and effective treatment for most cases of unilateral hearing loss is hearing aids. We recommend using two hearing aids even if hearing loss is most present in one ear. This is called a bilateral hearing aid fitting, and consists of two hearing aids or assistive devices on two ears.
For many it may be tempting to cut costs and invest in only one hearing aid for the ear that needs it. The problem is that most cases of unilateral hearing are actually binaural, it is just that the one ear’s hearing loss is so pronounced that you don’t realize that there is damage in both. In fact it is rare to have hearing loss in just one ear. Even if you cannot detect a hearing loss, patients with a noticeable hearing loss in one ear almost always are suffering from a hearing loss in the other as well.
Both Sides of the Brain
When one ear works better than the other the brain will come to rely on the “good ear”. Sound entering the left ear is processed by the right side of your brain, while sound picked up by the right ear is processed on the left. Both sides of the brain work together to process sound, so the more you use both sides of your brain, the sharper and quicker you thought process can be. When hearing aids are used for both ears then your brain is evenly stimulated to overcome one ear’s dominance.
The Importance of Bilateral Hearing Aids
Bilateral hearing aids work together with each other to recreate the natural balance of hearing that we benefit from using both ears. The benefits from using two hearing aids, which communicate together, have many positive effects for hearing and brain health.
Two Hearing Aids Improve Speech Comprehension
Researchers have found that using both sides of your brain to process sound makes it easier to hear subtle sounds that are otherwise lost in speech. The need to turn up amplification for the “bad ear” is eliminated.
With two ears you can save the need to blast the bad ear with amplified volume, saving your hearing health in the long run. In addition it is easier to hear conversation in crowded rooms as two ears help filter out unwanted sounds to favor the sounds you want to hear. This is called selective listening ability, and allows you to favor attention to one voice while ignoring all others.
With bilateral hearing aids it is easier and quicker to pinpoint the direction sounds are coming from. This can keep you safe when you are out and about and in the home by identifying the direction of warning sounds.
Improved Phone Calls
Stay in touch with the people you love from a distance. Phone conversations can be difficult when you have hearing loss, but with bilateral hearing aids, the phone call is heard with both ears. This can increase the amplification of speech sounds that may otherwise be lost.
The Power of Two!
Bilateral hearing aids can enhance how your ears are meant to hear! To find out more, schedule an appointment for a hearing evaluation today, and enjoy the full potential of your hearing ability.