Age-Related Hearing Loss is Often Untreated

Patient talking with AuD

Even if your hearing loss is worse in one ear than the other, you’ll still likely need two devices. Let’s look at the different configurations of hearing loss and the benefits of the two devices.

Unilateral hearing loss

This is called unilateral hearing loss, when only one ear has trouble hearing, and the other does not. The prefix uni- means “one,” while the suffix -lateral means “from the side.”

When someone is told they have hearing loss on only one side, they will likely have trouble hearing conversations on the side that isn’t as good.

 If a person has trouble hearing in one ear but not the other, it will affect their ability to determine where sounds are coming from. You need two ears to figure out where the sound of water running is coming from. When there is noise in the background, it will also be harder for them to understand what is being said. People with trouble hearing in one ear also have difficulty focusing in big, open spaces.

Bilateral hearing loss

On the other hand, your audiogram might show that both of your ears have trouble hearing. This is called hearing loss on both sides. Bi- means “two,” so it can mean “two” or “both.” This is the much more standard configuration of hearing loss. 

Hearing loss can be symmetrical or asymmetrical and still fit into this category. Many things can cause bilateral hearing loss, but age-related hearing loss may be the most common. When both ears have about the same amount of hearing loss, this is called balanced hearing loss. This could be the case with age-related hearing loss since time and life have done about the same amount of damage to the inner ear. When one ear hears better than the other, but both ears still have hearing loss, this is called asymmetrical bilateral hearing loss.

Why do many people think they only need one hearing aid?

Many people with hearing loss in both ears think they only need one hearing aid. Some don’t realize they have a problem until they get tested, while others are aware of their condition but choose to live with it without treatment.

Hearing loss can cause problems understanding speech in a noisy environment, especially if you’re missing information from the side with your better ear. Because of this, some people with bilateral hearing loss may struggle to understand what’s happening around them simultaneously because of the loudness from both sides (this phenomenon is known as “crosstalk”). If so, two hearing aids can solve this issue by helping each ear provide clear reception when listening from different directions.

There’s also the fact that two hearing aids will be more expensive than getting just one, which can be a barrier for many people considering hearing loss treatment.

However, two devices are the best choice for most people. Here’s why.

What are the benefits of two hearing aids?

Wearing two hearing aids is beneficial for several reasons. The most significant one is that it improves the balance between the affected and unaffected ear, which results in better sound quality.

Another benefit of wearing two hearing aids is that you can hear directional sounds better. This helps you to locate where a sound is coming from, such as someone calling your name or an ambulance siren in the distance. You may also hear speech more clearly with bilateral hearing loss because there won’t be any background noise leaking into one ear or other (unlike when only one hearing aid is used).

CROS hearing aids are available for those with unilateral hearing loss.

If you genuinely have unilateral hearing loss, then a pair of CROS hearing aids are for you. CROS stands for “contralateral routing of signal” and refers to the sound from a better ear being routed to the worse one. This allows a more precise sound to reach your brain, which can help improve auditory processing and speech understanding in noisy environments.

Many people who have undergone bilateral cochlear implantation or surgery are candidates for two hearing aids, but they may be hesitant due to cost or other factors. If you feel like this describes you, let us know!

As technology continues to improve, it’s easier than ever for people with hearing loss to get the help they need. If you think you may have hearing loss in one ear but not the other, don’t hesitate to discuss it with us! We can tell you which hearing aids are right for you and what options might be available at an affordable price.