If you have hearing loss, chances are your hearing professional will recommend dual hearing aids (also known as binaural or bilateral hearing aids) – a hearing aid for each ear.
Your initial reaction may be to balk at this suggestion. After all, two hearing aids are twice as expensive as one, and anyway, your grandpa used to have just one hearing aid and got by just fine. Or did he?
Before you make up your mind, however, consider this: if an optometrist tells you that you need glasses to see better, are you going to insist on getting a lens for just one eye? Sure, you can manage to squint your way through life with only one good eye and strain to hear with one good ear, but isn’t this taking the notion of cutting corners a bit too far?
Exceptions To The Rule
It is possible that you can manage with just one hearing aid. For example, if your hearing loss is limited to only one ear and the other one has a normal hearing capacity, you won’t need a second hearing aid – not immediately, anyway. By the same token, if you are totally deaf in one ear, a conventional hearing aid may not help you.
Another scenario might be that you have a physical or structural problem with the outer ear or ear canal in one ear that would prevent you from wearing a hearing aid so your audiologist or hearing instrument dispenser will probably fit you with just one, for your “healthy” ear. That doesn’t mean that your overall hearing wouldn’t be improved by having two aids; it only means that the above-mentioned ear problems would prevent you from wearing one safely and painlessly.
There may also be other reasons that prevent you from wearing two hearing aids. However, the majority of approximately 36 million Americans suffering from hearing loss would likely benefit from bilateral treatment.
Two are better than one
If you have just one hearing aid and your hearing is still much impaired, chances are it could be vastly improved if you had a device for each ear. As Better Hearing Institute (BHI) notes on its website, “Similar to the way refractory problems in both eyes are treated with a pair of glasses, it makes sense that bilateral hearing loss should be treated with binaural hearing aids.”
Still, a hearing professional will not recommend two hearing aids routinely, but will do so if he or she feels – based on an evaluation and assessment of each patient – that binaural amplification will significantly improve an individual’s hearing and communicative ability.
In fact, both research and clinical experience have proven that hearing aids in both ears not only improve our understanding of words in a noisy environment, but also help locate the source and direction of sounds.
Mistakenly many persons with hearing loss think it will be less overwhelming and easier to adjust to wearing hearing aids if they start with just one. However this many actual result in little benefit resulting in dissatisfaction. Listening with just one ear may sound unnatural and cause strain and fatigue.
BHI notes that “research with more than 5000 consumers with hearing loss in both ears demonstrated that binaurally fit subjects are more satisfied than people fit with one hearing aid.” Among the reasons cited by BHI are better sound quality, smoother tone, better hearing range, and less hearing loss deterioration.
Other benefits of wearing two hearing aids may include:
- Better localization – the ability to tell where sounds are coming from
- Better hearing in background noise
- Better hearing for soft sounds such as children’s voices and sounds of nature
- Less strain on you while listening - with only one hearing aid you may often strain to hear various sounds and become fatigued, with two hearing aids listening is more relaxed
- Listening balance – you won’t be turning your “good” ear to hear.
Yes, But What About The Cost?
True, hearing aids are expensive. An average price per device ranges between $1,000 for a basic model up to $5000 for the most sophisticated one with all the bells and whistles of state-of-the art technology. Unfortunately, neither Medicare nor most private insurance plans cover the cost. In this economic climate, when many people can’t afford the basic necessities, spending several thousand dollars on hearing aids may seem like a needless luxury. Don’t forget, however, that anything that improves your health and the quality of your life is not an unnecessary splurge.
First, before you decide you can’t afford one hearing aid, much less two, think of all the numerous (and scientifically proven) advantages of good hearing. Not only does it allow you to hear, listen, communicate and interact with friends and family, but it also has an added perk of boosting your earning potential.
Secondly, if you crunch some numbers, you will see that hearing aids are not really out of reach, financially speaking. If you calculate the initial cost of a hearing aid over a three to five year period that an average device usually lasts, you will come up with a mere – and totally affordable - $3 a day.
You may also want to investigate possible funding options for hearing aids by checking out Healthy Hearing’s Free Hearing Loss and Hearing Aid Consumer Guides – a comprehensive reference guide about hearing loss, hearing loss treatments, as well as a comprehensive guide to funding.