Is one hearing aid enough? Binaural hearing & how it works.

Is one hearing aid enough? Binaural hearing & how it works.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

Epictetus (Greek Philosopher)

If you’re dealing with some form of hearing loss, you might have noticed that it is not the same in both ears simultaneously. Because one ear might be worse than the other ear, this raises the question: Is one hearing aid enough?

While we all can learn a lot from what Epictetus had to share, it is not the real reason we have two ears. We have two ears simply because that is what nature gave us, something which is known as binaural hearing. In this guide, we will discuss why two hearing aids are, indeed, better than one, what binaural hearing means and its benefits.

Binaural Hearing. Why two is better than one.

Have you ever tried walking with one of your eyes closed? You feel a little off-balance right? That’s because we were built to have two eyes, which work together to let us know, visually, where we are in space.

Similarly, our bodies were designed to have two ears for a reason – both ears constantly communicate with each other as they absorb sounds from the environment. This is known as Binaural Hearing. Having two ears lets us hear in “stereo” versus mono and provides a unique set of benefits, which include:

  • Better hearing in one on one conversations
  • Better hearing in group conversations
  • Better hearing and understanding of speech in the presence of noise
  • Better hearing quality (stereo vs. mono)
  • Reducing the risk ‘auditory deprivation’

Binaural hearing is better for one on one conversations

Let’s imagine we only had one ear and someone calls out your name. There’s a chance you might not hear it or you might even ask yourself, “in which direction is the sound coming from?” This is because, with only one ear, you’re not able to detect where the location of the sound as you only have one source to hear from.

Binaural hearing, however, gives you a sense of location and the ability to locate sounds in all directions. This is known as localization. To correctly triangulate the location of the source, your brain requires inputs from both ears.  Imagine a friend calls out your name from a distance. The sound your friend makes reaches one ear slightly ahead of the other. If your friend were to your right, your right ear would hear the sound a split second before your left ear. This split-second difference is what enables your brain to pinpoint the location and source of the sound. 

Binaural hearing is better for one on one conversations

When you only wear one hearing aid and have loss in both your ears, you will have a tendency to think that the sounds are always coming from the side with the hearing aid on, as this is now your better ear. When you choose two hearing aids, this is no longer a problem, and thus, you’re able to pinpoint where the sound is coming from, helping you engage better in conversations.

At EARly, we offer a range of hearing aids that wirelessly communicate with each other, allowing them to work with each other. Find out more about our types of hearing aids here.

Binaural hearing is better for group conversations

With the ability to localize sound much better with binaural hearing aids, your ability to hear and understand speech in group conversations is greatly enhanced.  Imagine yourself in a social setting with people on either side of you. If you’re only wearing a hearing aid in one ear, you may not be able to hear the person sitting on the other side of you. 

Binaural hearing is better for group conversations

With two hearing aids, however, sound signals from both your ears help your brain triangulate where the sounds are coming from. This helps you quickly identify which person in the group is speaking, so you can bring your attention to them.

Binaural hearing making hearing easier in background noise

Even with normal hearing, background noise can be really annoying and make understanding speech difficult. Now imagine the case while diagnosed with hearing loss. With two hearing aids, however, speech is made clearer, making it possible to better understand sound. This is because binaural hearing feeds more data to your brain allowing it to cut speech from noise whereas monaural hearing forces the brain to process speech and noise together.

Binaural hearing making hearing easier in background noise

When this happens, the noises blend together with the speech making it difficult to discriminate the sounds you are trying to hear. Thus, with a pair of hearing aids, you are able to filter out the unnecessary noise, making it easier to hear clearly.

Binaural hearing improves quality of hearing

Why do we all dislike sharing earphones? Because hearing sounds with only one ear doesn’t deliver the same quality, as it would be two. Monaural hearing prevents you from separating multiple speech signals from one another. In addition, soft sounds may go undetected by one ear, like the whisper of a loved one – something you just can’t put a price tag on. With binaural hearing aids, each hearing aid has 2 mics each, ultimately giving you four chances to pick up the softest of sounds. With more sound input, your brain is able to work with more information, ultimately reconstructing sound in a more natural way. In simple terms, the world is better with stereo sound.

Binaural hearing improves hearing balance

Because the natural state of binaural hearing is a perfect balance between both ears, one might experience asymmetric hearing loss when there is a decibel imbalance in the continuous frequencies that reach the right & left ears. With two hearing aids, we at EARly can help adjust each hearing aid to fit your hearing needs, delivering hearing balance and much-improved listening experience.

In addition, with only one hearing aid, you often need to keep the volume much higher to hear speech than you would while wearing two. Thus, with two hearing aids, you’re able to reduce the need for extra volume – protecting your ears from further damage.

Binaural hearing helps maintain ear health

If you’ve ever been in a cast before, you’ll know that when you finally get it open, your muscles will not only have lost mass but will be weaker than before. Even though your ears aren’t muscles, in the same way, that muscles lose function if not used, your senses can also be subject to ‘auditory deprivation. This occurs when your auditory nerve pathways are deprived of sound causing your hearing to further decline. By using two hearing aids, each ear picks up sound and gets the stimulus it needs to stay at peak performance.  

Today’s modern hearing aids

Gone are the days where hearing aids worked individually and independent of each other. Most modern hearing aids offer binaural hearing features, making it feel as close to natural hearing as possible. Coupling the left and right hearing aids together wirelessly allows the hearing aid devices to communicate and coordinate with each other. The two main features of modern-day hearing aids include:

1. Control Coupling: By pairing both the left and right hearing aids together, what you do to one will also reflect in the other hearing aid. Thus, you won’t have to adjust the volume of both separately; adjusting just one side will automatically set it correctly at both ends.

2. Binaural Audio Transmission: This is the feature that allows both hearing aids to communicate with each other in real-time. Thus, the sounds that are heard by one side are transferred to the other side making it easier to process sound and distinguish speech.  

Binaural hearing aids cost

When it comes to hearing aids, you get what you pay for. This is because the cost of hearing aid devices varies depending on the technology and features that a particular model has.

Binaural hearing aids are an advanced level device but because of their huge demand, there are many options available with different features. At EARly, our binaural hearing aids begin at 25,000 INR onwards.    

When is one hearing aid an exception?

Although using two hearing aids is usually the better choice, if someone is using only one hearing aid, this is usually why:

  1. Financial Concerns:  Obviously getting two hearing aids will increase costs and if finance is an issue, it is always better to at least get one hearing aid rather than leaving hearing loss untreated. However, it is important to remember that leaving the other ear untreated over time will result in further hearing loss and may increase overall health costs.
  2. You still have perfect hearing in one ear: If only one of your ear requires a hearing aid and the other ear has perfect hearing, then it is not necessary to have two. But we do recommend having a consultation with your audiologist about it, as having a ‘better’ ear is not the same as having a ‘perfect’ ear

What’s the best choice for you?

In most situations, two hearing aids are going to be healthier for your ears and improve your overall experience. Often, choosing the right hearing aid type is a confusing process. Our experts are trained to help you find the perfect one that fits your needs and lifestyle. Schedule an appointment with our hearing care professionals to get your free consultation today.  


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