We’re used to thinking of them as pairs–like Reese’s peanut butter cups or Twix–but can you have a hearing aid in just one ear? Well, sure, you can; as in, you are physically able to place a hearing aid in only one ear. Whether it’s a good idea or not involves a more complicated (and longer) answer.
We can boil it down like this, though: in most cases, two hearing aids are going to be preferable to only one. But there are some instances in which a single hearing aid might be the way to go.
Would you want to wear a monocle?
Think about it like this: would you rather wear glasses or a monocle? I’m going to guess you said glasses, even if only one of your eyes is giving you issues. In the end, your eyes work as a team–and the same is true of your ears (biology is a team sport).
Whether you’re aware of it or not, your ears effectively function as a pair, which means that there are certain advantages to wearing two hearing aids.
- The ability to properly localize: Your brain is always working, not only to interpret sounds but to place them–to figure out where they’re coming from. This much easier when your brain can triangulate, and to do that, it needs solid inputs from both ears. When you can only hear well out of one ear, it’s much harder to figure out where a sound is coming from (which could be essential if you happen to live near a busy street, for example).
- Hearing voices: Wearing two hearing aids allows your brain to better filter out background noises because your mind has more available data. When you hear out of both ears, you can better figure out what should be background noise and what’s nearby that you should listen to.
- Better ear health: Just as an unused limb can atrophy, so too can an unused sense. If your ears go long periods without input, your hearing can start to deteriorate. Wearing two hearing aids ensures that your ears get the input they need to maintain your hearing as well as possible. Wearing both hearing aids can also help with reducing tinnitus and improving the overall clarity of sounds.
Why would you not wear two hearing aids?
So, hopefully, by now, we’ve convinced you that, most of the time, wearing two hearing aids is going to be good for you. But that raises the question: why would anyone wear a hearing aid in just one ear?
Well, there are a couple of reasons:
- Financial: One is better than none, even if two are better than one. So if one is all you can afford, it’s better than nothing.
- You still have great hearing in one ear: If only one of your ears needs a hearing aid, then you might be best served by having a hearing aid in just one ear–but it’s definitely something you should talk to your hearing professional about (having one better ear is not the same as having one good ear).
- Other health issues: There are some instances in which other health issues, cognitive or physical, may make having just one hearing aid preferable to the two.
Two hearing aids are better than one
In the vast majority of cases, however, two hearing aids are going to be better for your ears and your hearing than only one. That said, one hearing aid is better than none.