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Better Hearing with Both Ears

Why Two Are So Important

Being able to hear with both ears is just as important as being able to see with both eyes.

If you have difficulty hearing with both ears, you will almost certainly benefit from a binaural fitting-that is, wearing a hearing instrument in each ear.

The most important benefits of wearing two hearing aids are:

  • Your ability to localize sounds will improve.
  • It will be easier to understand speech in noisy surroundings.
  • The risk of ‘auditory deprivation’ is considerably reduced.
  • You will experience a fuller, more comfortable sound picture.

Sense of Sound Direction

Why do people have two ears? Because the brain needs input from both ears to tell us which direction sounds are coming from.

Think about a car honking its horn, for example. Your ears alert you to the danger, sending sound signals to your brain. Within a split second, your brain compares the information received from both ears-such as the power and intensity of the sound wave, and how long it took to reach each ear.

This tells you instantly which direction the car is coming from, and how far away it is. This process is called ‘sound localizing’.


Localizing Sound

The reason we can localize sounds is because of the physical distance between our ears. For instance, the sound of a car horn on your right-hand side reaches your right ear a fraction of a second before it reaches your left ear, and with greater power. This is why you know immediately that the car is rapidly approaching from the right. It is nature’s way of keeping us safe and feeling comfortable in everyday situations.

Understanding People in Noise
Background noise makes it difficult to follow what people are saying. For people who don’t hear equally well with both ears, it suddenly becomes much harder to separate individual voices from background noise. The brain needs input from both ears in order to separate sounds effectively.


A Typical Noisy Situation

Imagine an everyday situation, like a conversation at the dinner table. You are trying to talk with the person next to you, but the rest of the family is also talking. The background noise makes it difficult for you not only to hear, but also to understand what is being said.

It is possible to assist some of the brain’s natural ability to filter out background noise by getting professionally fitted with two hearing aids.

Another advantage of wearing two instruments is that you need less amplification, so background noise is less irritating. And with less sound amplification you also reduce the risk of acoustical feedback (whistling sounds).


Reducing the Risk of Auditory Deprivation

Another risk that is considerably reduced by wearing two hearing aids is the risk of auditory deprivation. This is when the brain gradually loses some of its ability to process information from the unaided ear because of a continued lack of sound stimulation.

Auditory deprivation most often occurs when the ear goes unaided over a long period of time-so the earlier you consider wearing two hearing aids, the better your chances are of minimizing this risk.


Auditory Deprivation in Children

Reducing the risk of auditory deprivation is especially important for children with hearing loss. Children have the ability to pick up sounds at a very young age, and it is this ability to hear and imitate sounds that gives them the foundation to develop speech.

If children miss this crucial early learning period it can be very difficult for them to develop good verbal communication skills later on. That is why it is essential to get them fitted with two hearing instruments as soon as possible.


A Fuller Sound Picture

If you hear equally well with both ears, sounds are more comfortable to listen to. You don’t have to strain to hear, and sounds have the kind of clarity and depth that give you a sense of space and location.

Imagine listening to your favorite program on the stereo. It has two amplifiers and two speakers, to give music and speech a natural depth. However, if only one amplifier and speaker is working, the sounds become shallow and flat.

If you should be wearing two hearing instruments but only wear one, you may also perceive sound in this way. Fortunately, your hearing care professional can correct this by fitting you with an instrument in both ears.


Be Good to Yourself

If you do have a hearing loss in both ears, you should talk with your hearing care professional, and follow his advice. Let him fit you with two instruments, and allow yourself the necessary time it takes to adjust to wearing them.

Be good to yourself. By wearing two hearing aids, not only will you enjoy the benefits of a fuller sounds picture-you will also notice an overall improvement in the quality of your life.


*Information source; “Better Hearing with Both Ears ” brochure provided by Oticon.

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