Are two hearing aids better than one?

Until quite recently - certainly in the UK - it seemed normal for deaf people to be given just one hearing aid. This may have been on the grounds of cost as hearing aids were - and are - very expensive, or it may have been through lack of understanding of the benefits of wearing a hearing aid in each ear.

The benefits of two hearing aids

On a separate page I explain that where each ear hears sounds differently, which I call having unbalanced hearing, the sense of direction is distorted. If the hearing is extremely unbalanced, there is effectively no sense of direction at all, and all the sounds around merge together. This is why people with unbalanced hearing have so much trouble with background noise and with interacting in social situations where lots of people are talking together.

Wearing just one hearing aid very much exaggerates unbalanced hearing and accordingly exaggerates all the problems that come with it. Wearing just one hearing aid only improves hearing - ie understanding of what one hears - only if there is no background noise.

In the past, my experience of the NHS* was that it, too, supplied only one aid. Nowadays, though, unless the circumstances are exceptional, it invariably seems to supply two, one for each ear. In my experience of private suppliers - which may be unrepresentative - they still seem quite prepared to sell a hearing aid for one ear alone. I suspect this is because so many customers would be seriously put off at the price of two.

My experience of wearing two hearing aids

I am very pleased with my NHS hearing aids. My hearing is such that even with two aids, I shall never hear perfectly. Nevertheless, the two aids really do improve matters. A benefit that I hadn't expected but which really pleases me is that before I had them, the sounds around me which all merged together without apparently having any direction, actually sounded inside my head. Now they seem to be outside my head. This is probably something that anyone with normal hearing can't understand - but I promise you, it is very much less tiring.


* The NHS is the UK's National Health Service which is free at the point of delivery.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is for a lay audience and I cannot be responsible for errors or omissions. The views, strategies, advice and suggestions etc are based on my personal experience and are not necessarily appropriate for anyone else. They should, hopefully, stimulate individuals to develop their own strategies.