Hearing is one of the five senses we rely on to take in information from the world around us, to help us make decisions, to stay safe, and to stay connected. Our sense of hearing developed over centuries, along with sight, taste, touch, and smell, to help us survive. They work in conjunction with each other; when one sense is impaired, another one steps up. For example, when ancient humans were in the dark, they relied on hearing to gather information about their surroundings. Without the conveniences of fire or electricity, it was footsteps on leaves or rocks that notified them that they were not alone.
Even more remarkably, hearing does not stop working – unlike sight. When we fall asleep, we wake up because of an alarm. We take in sound information from all 360 degrees of our surroundings. Our auditory systems can pick up sounds that are close by, like a fan next to our bed, to sounds that are far outside our homes, such as a distant ambulance siren. With two ears, this is known as binaural hearing – the harmonizing of sounds picked up by both ears.
For the most part, when you experience hearing loss, both ears are affected. In some cases, people experience single-sided hearing loss, and there are specially designed hearing devices for these instances. For people who experience hearing loss in both ears – bilateral hearing loss – one hearing aid just isn’t enough.
Think about it – when you listen to music through a stereo, isn’t the sound better when you’re using both speakers? Similarly, two hearing aids are better than one, when you’re experiencing bilateral hearing loss.
For people with hearing loss, the common complaint is, “I can hear, but I can’t understand.” Speech recognition is one of the biggest struggles for people who experience hearing loss. Words become muffled or muddled, and it becomes especially difficult when people are in conversation with a large group or there is competing background noise, such as in a busy restaurant.
Most advanced hearing aids are designed to share information with one another. With two hearing aids, sound information from 360-degrees of your environment are picked up and mixed, giving you access to speech sounds in front, to the side, and behind you. The use of two hearing aids in this instance helps discern speech from extraneous background noise
Our sense of hearing helps us locate ourselves within our environment. This is such a seamless and unconscious process that we may not even notice it is happening. Think about it: you can tell how far away some is from you by the sound of their voice. With two hearing aids, the wearer has a better sense of space and localizing sound within their environment. This includes hearing people approaching you from behind or the side, from understanding where you personally are situated within an environment, where horns are coming from in traffic, and where your grandkids are in other parts of the house. Two hearing aids work in conjunction to give you an all-around better sense of sound – improving both your safety and awareness.
Our auditory systems are undoubtedly sophisticated and intricate. This seamless system takes sound from your environment, amplifies it, translates it into neural impulses and then send them to the brain to be registered as sound. With hearing loss, there is an impediment somewhere along this path and hearing aids are designed to elucidate and clarify sound signals along the way.
With bilateral hearing loss, the use of two hearing aids is crucial to ensure that your auditory system is fully engaged and active. Hearing specialists liken wearing one hearing aid to treat bilateral hearing loss to having a 180-degree view, as opposed to a 360 degree. If one ear has an aid and the other does not, the one that does not often has to strain to match the quality of sound heard in the other ear.
With two hearing aids, you’ll experience well-balanced and richer sound. In other words, it is the difference between surround sound and monaural sound. Or, to put it more clearly, wearing eye glasses, rather than a monocle!
To learn more about our hearing aid offerings and to schedule a hearing test at one of our locations, contact us at Puget Sound Hearing Aids and Audiology today.