Do Two Hearing Aids Really Make A Difference?

Have you begun the process of getting tested and fitted for a hearing aid? If so, you will want to find out if you'll need one hearing aid or if both ears should have them. Different audiologists and manufacturers may make different suggestions; you can learn more here. Some doctors are more conservative and may want you to try improving the hearing in your least-functioning ear first. Others believe you should start off your hearing aid-wearing experience with proper hearing on both sides. What does research say? 

Benefits of Having Two Hearing Aids

Besides simply hearing better, there are a few reasons why your brain functions better when hearing is roughly equal on both sides. 

  1. It's easier to determine which direction sound is coming from. This is called localization, and it helps you figure out who is talking in a room with multiple people, for example. A study conducted with people who had mild to moderate hearing loss found that two hearing aids help people maintain their horizontal localization, while having just one hearing aid made it harder to tell where a sound or voice was originating from.
  2. Your ears may ring less. When you hear a constant sound like a ringing or humming, that's called tinnitus. And getting rid of it may require two hearing aids. One survey of suffers found that 66.52 percent of patients with two hearing aids noticed a reduction in their tinnitus symptoms, while only 12.7 percent with one hearing aid got any relief. Other studies have found similar results, with the amount of time a person wearing the hearing aids making some additional difference.

Reasons Why You Might Be Fine With One Hearing Aid

Some people may do well with a single hearing aid, particularly if hearing loss is dramatically different between ears. 

  1. One hearing aid may help you hear better in situations with background noise. Your brain is used to filtering information through both ears and dropping out the unnecessary information, but tests have shown that patients -- especially older patients -- tend to hear speech better with a single hearing aid when there is background noise like crowds or music.
  2. The cost will be lower. Hearing aids are expensive; a "Hearing Review" article published in 2014 and cited by the AARP found that the average price of a pair of mid-level hearing aids is between $4,400 and $4,500. Getting a single hearing aid can cut your costs, especially if insurance will not cover some or all of the devices.

Talk to your audiologist about whether one or two hearing aids is best for you, your situation, and your budget.