Are Two Hearing Aids Better Than One?

In Brain Health, Cognitive Health, Health, Hearing Loss, Mental Health by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Dr. Jennifer G. Mayer purchased South Shore Hearing Center in January 2016. She was born and raised in Swampscott, MA. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing in 1996 from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and her Master’s degree in audiology from the Northeastern University in 1998. Dr. Mayer fulfilled her Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY) in 1999 at Hear USA and Cape Cod Ear, Nose and Throat.
Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

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Hearing loss is a very common condition that affects older adults. For adults between the ages of 65 and 74, one in three have at least some degree of hearing loss. Nearly half of everyone over the age of 75 suffers from hearing loss. Unfortunately, only a quarter of those who have hearing loss actually get hearing aids. Many of those who do get hearing aids, only get hearing aids for one ear, even though the hearing loss is bilateral.

For many people with this issue, they may not even be aware of the problem in the early stages. It is often other family members that notice the high television volume or the repeated “what?” in conversations that are often indicative of hearing loss. Waiting to seek treatment can lessens quality of life and make it more difficult to be a part of many social activities. In addition, recent studies show that hearing loss may play a role in the development of dementia.

Importance of early detection

As a person ages, their likelihood to have some hearing loss gets increasingly high the more they age. Unfortunately, most hearing loss is not noticed until it has already caused them issues. Even minor hearing loss can have negative effects on their employment. It can make it more difficult for them to hear others and instructions. For some, it can even lead to job loss.

Hearing loss can also pose burdens on friends and family members. The inability to hear them clearly can make conversations uncomfortable. It can even lead to problematic misunderstandings, or even annoyed family members that do not want to interact with the person. These issues can lead to isolation and even depression.
Early detection at the first sign of hearing loss is very important. Even if you are showing no signs of a problem, it may be beneficial to have your doctor perform a hearing test at every visit as you get older. This can help you take steps to correct the problem as soon as it begins. Unfortunately, most hearing loss cannot be reversed. However, some conditions can be prevented if caught early. There are also corrective devices available to improve hearing.

Benefits of two hearing aids

Many people who have issues with their hearing choose to only use one hearing aid. For people who only have hearing loss in one ear, this is fine. However, if there is hearing loss in both ears, it is important to use two hearing aids to properly restore hearing. Unfortunately, there are still many people who only use one due to comfort, costs, or various other reasons.

Choosing two hearing aids can be very beneficial for those with bilateral hearing loss. Using two hearing aids instead of one provides you with better quality hearing. You will be able to hear clearly no matter which angle the sound is coming from. You will also not need to set the amplification as high in two as you would using just one hearing aid. This helps you to get clearer hearing and conserve the battery life of your hearing aids. In some cases, you may even be able to wear smaller hearing aids.

The ears are placed on the sides of the head to provide aa method for determining where sound is coming from. This sound triangulation can be very important in some situations, especially in some work environments. If you are only using one hearing aid but have hearing loss in both ears, you may not be able to tell where the sound is coming from. By utilizing two hearing aids, you restore the function of both ears allowing you to tell which direction a sound or voice is coming from.

Hearing loss and dementia

Recent studies have connected hearing loss with risk of dementia. This is could be explained by a process called compensatory brain reorganization. This is when your brain notices that a section is not being utilized as it once was. This causes the brain to adapt to this change by using that area of the brain for other functions.
When hearing loss occurs, the center of the brain responsible for hearing is not being used as much by hearing. The brain then reorganizes that area to use for other functions. The more hearing is lost, the more brain area is reorganized. This process strongly correlates with occurrences of dementia. Studies have shown that people with hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia.

This dementia link makes it more important for older adults to identify hearing loss as soon as possible. Using two hearing aids is also beneficial in preventing reorganization in the brain. It ensures that the entire hearing center is utilized properly and prevents reorganization.

If you are getting older or have noticed any possible signs that your hearing may not be as good as it once was, it is a good idea to have your hearing checked by a professional. Early detection can allow the doctor to take steps to prevent further loss. Taking action right away can also prevent various other health risks, including dementia.