When a patient with significant hearing loss on one side comes in to see us, we often find that the other ear has trouble, too, but to a much lesser degree. Such patients often ask if they should get treatment for just their “bad” ear, wondering if taking care of most of the hearing difficulty is enough.
Fitting just one hearing aid in these situations tends to do a poor job of providing a satisfactory result for the patient. The same factors that contributed to hearing loss in the “bad” ear are probably the same ones affecting the “good” ear; since that ear will continue to experience those factors, it makes sense to treat both ears and slow the overall progression of hearing loss.
Wearing two hearing aids also tends to mean a need for less amplification; lower volume provides the benefit of quality sound reproduction with lower potential for distortion and feedback.
Ears x 2 = Brainpower x 2
That silly little equation represents an important fact: The sound collected by each of your ears is processed by the opposite side of your brain (left ear/right brain, right ear/left brain). After that, both sides of your brain work together in telling you what those sounds are; each side has equal responsibility in the hearing process. If one ear is functioning at a higher level than the other, one side of the brain is working harder than the other, too. Healthy ears, fully using both sides of the brain, make deciphering speech a lot easier and help in “selective listening” ability — zeroing in on an individual sound or voice that you want to hear.
Noisy Environments Are Easier with Two Ears
That ability to focus full brainpower on specific sounds is key to handling one of the most common hearing loss complaints: hearing over background noise. Two well-functioning ears are important to identifying the location of sounds, which enables us to focus on sound effectively. Two ears also help make it easier to understand what people are saying in noisy environments, makes listening in such places a lot less fatiguing and prevents being confused by misunderstood speech.
Also known as “profound unilateral hearing loss,” this condition refers to a total loss of hearing in one ear. It’s less common but it does happen. Contemporary technology offers some hope in these situations with treatments designed to help recreate at least a sense of binaural hearing. Such treatments include bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHA devices) that can help transmit vibrations from the so-called “bad” ear to the “good” ear. CROS hearing aids are another option; CROS (contralateral routing of sound) devices use a microphone in the non-hearing ear to transmit sound to the hearing hear.
Get in touch with us so we can discuss your hearing situation and the best solution for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I improve my hearing?
Unfortunately, many forms of hearing loss are permanent because there is no cure. Treatment methods that feature amplification fit to your specific hearing loss by a hearing care professional typically have the highest user satisfaction for improved hearing and improved quality of life.
How can I prevent hearing loss?
Protecting your hearing from noise levels greater than 85 decibels at work and during leisurely activities will greatly reduce your chances of noise-induced hearing loss. Many manufacturing jobs require hearing protection in loud environments, but hearing protection is also recommended while ATV riding, hunting, attending concerts and sporting events, and playing music — all situations where your hearing is vulnerable.
What should I do if I get sudden hearing loss?
See your physician immediately; sudden hearing loss is considered a medical emergency. Sudden hearing loss typically resolves on its own within two weeks, but it might not — meaning your hearing might be gone for good. Seeking medical assistance within 72 hours of the onset of sudden hearing loss greatly improves the chances that your hearing will recover.
At what age do people normally start getting hearing loss?
Since hearing loss is cumulative, hearing loss begins as an infant and continues throughout life. Most individuals don’t begin to experience symptoms until their late 20s or early 30s, and by age 45 a yearly hearing check becomes of greater importance. One-third of people beyond the age of 65 have some degree of hearing loss, however mild or severe, and that share of the elderly population increases as they age.
Are some types of hearing loss easier to treat?
Hearing loss is a puzzle that our professionals love to solve, and it is based on your individual experiences, lifestyle, and severity of impairment. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment method for hearing loss — it’s based on the sounds that you can’t hear, which vary greatly, and the sounds that you want to be able to hear. A quality hearing system from a reputable manufacturer isn’t effective until an experienced, qualified hearing care professional programs the technology properly based on your unique hearing needs.
Is hearing loss hereditary?
Though it is difficult to say what genetic factors predispose individuals to hearing loss, there seems to be a connection. Some genetic disorders present at birth cause a hearing loss, but in the absence of a disease, hearing loss can still have a basis in your genetics.
Are there any health downsides to not treating hearing loss?
Research has established a relationship between hearing loss and dementia. There is strong evidence that hearing loss accelerates brain-tissue atrophy, particularly in areas of the brain that auditory nerves would stimulate but can’t because they aren’t receiving a signal (due to a hearing loss). These areas of the brain are also related to memory and speech. Individuals with a mild hearing loss are three times as likely to fall down than those without, and the likelihood of falls increases as degree of hearing loss increases. Hearing loss has also been linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, sickle-cell anemia, and other circulatory conditions.
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Bow River Hearing has one location in Airdrie and three in Calgary. We look forward to seeing you at the clinic that is most convenient for you to visit.