One of our fans asked us in the comments: Can I use just one hearing aid when both ears have hearing loss? What impact does it have on my hearing if I can't get a pair of hearing aids right away? Today, we'll talk about everything you need to know about bilateral hearing aid fitting.
Bilateral Hearing Loss Occurs When Using a Single Hearing Aid
People have two eyes for precise positioning, and they also have two ears for sound source localization. When you have bilateral hearing loss but only use one hearing aid, it's often challenging to accurately locate sounds. Furthermore, the untreated ear, due to a lack of sound stimulation over time, will gradually lose its ability to understand language. This is known as the "auditory deprivation effect."
Many patients who use a single hearing aid on one side find it very difficult to hear sounds from the other ear. This is because the skull impedes and attenuates the transmission of sound waves, causing patients to turn their ear with the hearing aid towards the sound source, creating the "head shadow effect." Single-ear hearing cannot achieve binaural fusion, weakening the effectiveness of hearing and causing difficulties in speech recognition.
Advantages of Bilateral Hearing Aid Fitting
For patients with bilateral hearing loss for whom drug therapy or surgery is ineffective, fitting both ears with hearing aids is one of the common methods to address their hearing problems. Bilateral hearing aid fitting offers several advantages, such as preventing auditory deprivation, effectively amplifying and compensating for both ears or providing electrical stimulation, and preserving the patient's remaining hearing. It also enhances the ability to distinguish sound directions, as patients can rely on volume differences, time differences, and tone differences between the two ears to judge the approximate relative position and distance between the sound source and the listener.
Furthermore, bilateral hearing aid fitting helps eliminate the negative effects of the head shadow, increasing the signal-to-noise ratio by up to 12dB, reducing feedback and distortion, improving speech clarity and loudness, making it easier for patients to understand speech, and relieving the fatigue and tension caused by wearing a single hearing aid. It helps patients achieve a relatively natural auditory state.
Is It Too Late for Bilateral Hearing Aid Fitting?
Data shows that in the United States, 74% of hearing aid users opt for bilateral hearing aid fitting, while in Australia, the number goes up to 80%. However, in China, only 15% of hearing aid users choose bilateral fitting. When a patient's bilateral hearing loss degree and audiogram shape are similar, it is advisable to consider wearing hearing aids in both ears.
But the choice of hearing aids is often influenced by various factors, such as economic considerations, consumer attitudes, knowledge about hearing, and expectations of results. If bilateral fitting is not possible during the initial fitting, the patient can decide whether to go for bilateral fitting after a hearing test based on the recommendations of the audiologist and their personal circumstances.
Eyes are the windows to the soul, and ears are the path to the heart. When hearing loss is detected, it is essential to seek medical examination and intervention at a reputable hospital. Bilateral hearing aid fitting can improve the ability of individuals with bilateral hearing loss to understand speech in noisy environments. We recommend that individuals with bilateral hearing loss consider bilateral hearing aid fitting whenever possible.