Can You Wear a Hearing Aid in Just One Ear?

This blog has been reviewed and approved by a hearing healthcare professional.

We prefer to use both of our eyes - the same goes for our ears. Wearing one hearing aid would be the same as wearing eyeglasses with only one lens in it. When wearing one hearing aid you do not allow the ears to work together with the brain to sort out the sounds. As the old saying goes - two heads are better than one. We could keep going with two hands, two legs, two eyes - so why not with two ears as well? 

  

We almost always recommend getting two hearing aids instead of one for the reasons below. 

Binaural Hearing

Selective listening is more easily achieved when you have two hearing aids. This means your brain can focus on the conversation that you want to hear instead of the background noise around you. You can take better advantage of the way the brain processes sound through what’s known as binaural hearing. If you don’t have hearing loss, you receive sound signals from both ears that are comparable in strength. The brain can pick out the signals, like voices, when they’re louder instead of background noise. Research shows that people wearing two hearing aids routinely understand speech and conversation significantly better than people wearing only one hearing aid.¹ If you are only wearing one hearing aid and someone talks into your unaided ear in a noisy room, the voice may sound softer than the background noise, making it more difficult to hear.  

Contribute to Better Listening

Speech intelligibility is improved in difficult listening situations when wearing two hearing aids. If you are only wearing one hearing aid then it is harder to hear someone standing on the other side of you in a group setting. By wearing two hearing instruments, you increase your hearing range from 180 degrees reception, with just one instrument, to 360 degrees. 

 

This greater range provides a better sense of balance and sound quality. When in a social or business setting, it is important to be able to hear speech from everyone in the group and wearing two hearing aids increases the chance of speech understanding. 

Know Where Sound is Coming From

This is called localization. In a social gathering, for example, localization allows you to hear from which direction someone is speaking to you. It also helps you to determine from which direction traffic is coming or where children are playing. With binaural hearing, you will better detect where sounds are coming from in every situation. It can be harder for your brain to process and identify where the sound is coming from if you only wear one hearing aid. The brain normally locates sound by comparing the qualities of sound, their relative loudness, frequencies, and time it takes to travel through the ear.²  If the signals are always louder through the ear with the hearing aid the brain can’t locate where the sound is coming from.

Avoid the Auditory Deprivation Effect

Wearing two hearing aids keeps both ears active resulting in less hearing loss deterioration.
 

Research has shown that when only one hearing aid is worn, the unaided ear tends to lose its ability to understand speech, whereas those wearing two hearing instruments keep both ears active.³  

Curious about Hearing Aids

If you are curious about getting hearing aids for your hearing loss you can contact us to request an appointment at one of your hearing clinics. Our hearing healthcare professionals will recommend what hearing aid is best for your hearing loss and lifestyle.

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1 McKenzie, A R, C G Rice. “Binaural hearing aids for high-frequency hearing loss.” National Library of Medicine. October 24, 1990. Accessed April 28, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2265303/ 

 

2 “One hearing aid or two?” Harvard Health Publishing. December 5, 2019. Accessed April 28, 2022. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/one-hearing-aid-or-two 

 

3 Balkany T.J., Zeitler D.M. “Binaural Summation.” In: Kountakis S.E. (eds) Encyclopedia of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery. 2013. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. Accessed 28, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-23499-6_200035