The Benefits of Binaural Listening
The question regarding whether to purchase one or two hearing aids is an important topic to address with your audiologist during a hearing aid consultation. Hearing aids are an investment in your hearing health that can contribute to improved communication with family and friends and lead to better quality of life. Hearing aids are also a financial investment and it makes sense that many people want to weigh the benefits versus the cost.
In some cases one hearing aid truly is the best option. For example, a person may have a hearing loss in only one ear and normal hearing in the other ear. Another example is a person who has very little useful hearing in one ear; in this case a hearing aid may not provide any benefit at all and a cochlear implant may be the better option. In most other cases if both ears have a hearing loss then two hearing aids are better than one.
Binaural hearing is the term used to refer to hearing with two ears (whether with two normal hearing ears or with two hearing aids). Bimodal hearing applies to people who wear a hearing aid on one side and a cochlear implant on the other ear. Studies have shown that binaural/ bimodal hearing have many benefits and leads to improved communication ability.
Detecting Location of Sound
The ability to detect where sounds are coming from is called “localization” and is a function of the brain that is dependent upon sound being heard well by both ears. The brain uses timing and loudness cues to determine which ear received the sound first and at which ear the sound was louder in order to determine where the sound is located. The brain is unable to detect the location of sound accurately with only one (amplified) ear.
Understanding in Noise
When sound reaches the ears, the signal travels to the inner ear and is then transferred to the hearing never. It then travels up the brainstem to the hearing centers of the brain. The brain analyzes and combines the sound heard from both ears to help “tease out” the speech signal from the unwanted background noise. If the brain only receives sound from one amplified ear it has much more difficulty separating speech from noise.
When sounds are received by both ears the signal travels through multiple pathways in the brainstem. This double input of information to the brain creates a boost in the volume of the speech signal making it easier to hear. This boost or summation of volume does not occur with one ear.
Studies have shown that when the brain listens with two ears, less effort is needed to hear and understand speech which helps to reduce fatigue.
For more information about the benefits of listening with two ears or about bimodal benefit for cochlear implant users call Jacksonville Hearing and Balance Institute at 904-399-0350 to set up a hearing aid consultation.