Do I Need Two Hearing Aids?
It’s one of the most common questions most people have when starting to research hearing aids. The answer, like most things related to hearing aids, is “it depends.” In most cases, probably greater than 95%, you should wear two hearing aids. The biggest determining factor is what the hearing loss is like in each of your ears, and how well that ear responds to amplification (which can be determined during a hearing test). During your hearing test you will likely have a speech discrimination test performed, and the results of this test will let you know which ears should be fitted. This test basically shows whether or not you respond well to amplification. In a nutshell, you will be read a list of words without amplification, and then a list with amplification. Each time, you will be asked to repeat the words you hear. The amount of words that you get correct is your speech discrimination score. If there is a good variation between the two different tests (with & without) amplification, then chances are you are that ear can be fitted successfully with a hearing aid. In general you want to see at least a 20% improvement in your discrimination score with amplification. Anything less than that 20% improvement, and your results with hearing aids will probably be negligible and they will not be worth the expense.
Most people have a pretty symmetrical hearing loss, meaning, the hearing is about the same in each ear. If this is the case, the discrimination scores will probably be very close to each other as well. Whenever both ears are about the same it is generally advisable to wear two hearing aids, and there are a number of reasons for this. The most important reason to wear two hearing aids is simply that we are supposed to hear in a balanced way, with equal input from each ear. When you wear only one hearing aid, you do not have equal input, things don’t sound balanced, and as a result clarity in speech, and the efficacy of the hearing aid is reduced. In addition, many of today’s advanced hearing aids have a number of features which work together with the opposing aid, and you will be missing out on those features and benefits if you only wear one.
There are a few cases where only wearing one hearing aid may be the right option. If there is a profound loss in one ear and the other ear is simply mild-moderate, you’re probably better off just wearing an aid in the mild-moderate ear, but again, this depends on the discrimination scores. While it may seem counter-intuitive to fit the ear with a mild-moderate loss and ignore the profound ear, there are strong arguments to be made for why this can be a good idea and this should be discussed with your hearing aid dispenser. Another reason you may opt to wear just one aid is if you have a physical limitation which makes it very difficult to put a hearing aid in one of your ears. For example, folks that have dexterity/usability issues are probably better off just purchasing one hearing aid as it will be easier to manage.
If purchasing only one hearing aid is strictly a financial decision, you are probably better off just buying two very low end hearing aids rather than one mid-priced unit, because again, having that balanced sound will be much more beneficial to you.
Deciding how many hearing aids to use and which type of hearing aid will be best for you is not an easy decision, and it’s a decision that you should definitely make with a hearing provider. Most providers will be happy to do a brief exam/consultation in 20-30 minutes absolutely free of charge, and get you on your way to better hearing.
If you’d like a free phone consultation with a licensed hearing provider, please feel free to call us at 800-731-6794.