There are some things that just intuitively work best as a pair. Take your socks for example. You could go about your business wearing a single sock, but that might not give you much other than some curious glances from friends and colleagues. (On a side note: with today’s fashion trends, there’s a reasonable chance that wearing one sock will become the trendy thing to do… In case you want to be ahead of the curve on that one.) If you’ve ever visited an audiologist or doctor and were counseled to wear two hearing aids, then you quite rightly asked: Why would I need two hearing aids!? Why can’t I wear just one? Hearing aids are, sadly, more expensive than socks, so it’s understandable why one might question the need for two of them. Let’s see if we can help elaborate on some of the reasons.
Benefits of Having Two Hearing Aids
Hear Better in Noisy Environments
One of the most common situations where you may have trouble hearing is in listening to people talk in a noisy environment, such as a restaurant. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology showed that the vast majority, 80% of study participants when listening to speech in noise environments, were able to understand speech better with two hearing aids vs one . That’s not too surprising. Researcher Harvey Dillon described one of the benefits of using two hearing aids as binaural redundancy , simply giving your brain more information to look at when it’s trying to understand speech in one of these tough situations.
Better Sound Localization
Another benefit of hearing better with both ears is that it will help you to localize sounds. For example, when you’re driving in your car, and a fire truck is coming, it can be difficult to tell from which direction the truck is coming. Imagine hearing the siren with only one ear and trying to determine where the fire truck is coming from. Is it coming from your left? Your right? Localization is important in your everyday life. Studies have shown this as well where using two hearing aids can preserve your ability to localize sounds, whereas using only one hearing aid greatly reduced this ability . Researchers Bryne and Nobel in their paper entitled Optimizing Sound Localization with Hearing Aids stated that “We need to consider localization as a major aspect of auditory functioning and the quality of auditory experience” . Or, in non-researcher speak: being able to hear the location and origin of sounds is an important part of a hearing aid solution.
More Comfortable Volume Level
Lastly, many people who use two hearing aids instead of one find that they are able to reduce the volume on their hearing aids and get the same benefit. On the opposite side, when patients wear only one hearing aid, they sometimes need to turn it up until it’s uncomfortably loud. Overall listening comfort and effort are very important and these are often improved by wearing two devices.
To determine what’s best for you, it’s best to contact your local hearing health professional. We wish you all the best in your endeavor. Now excuse me while I try to find my other sock…
 McArdle, R., Killion, M., Mennite, M. & Chisolm, T. Are Two Ears Not Better Than One? Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. 2012. 23, 171-181.
 Dillon, H. Monaural and binaural considerations in hearing aid fitting. In: Dillon, H., ed. Hearing Aids. Turramurra, Australia: Boomerang Press, 2001. 370-403.
 Kobler S, Rosenhall U. Horizontal localization and speech intelligibility with bilateral and unilateral hearing and amplification. International Journal of Audiology. 2002. Vol. 41, 395-400.
 Byrne D, Noble W. Optimizing sound localization with hearing aids. Trends Ampl. 1998. 3(2):51-73.