SIGNS AND CONSEQUENCES OF HEARING LOSS

Hearing loss can happen to anyone. It does not discriminate because of age, gender, demographic background or ethnicity. In addition to the noticeable signs of hearing loss, including asking for repetition or saying “What?” there are some warning signs that are not as obvious.  One of the most challenging aspects of hearing loss is the gradual progression in which it appears for some patients. Research shows it takes more than seven years from the time a patient notices they have to....

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AUDIOLOGIST VS. HEARING INSTRUMENT SPECIALISTS

With the addition of hearing aids to chain stores, there are more places than ever to purchase such devices. Making it even more complicated, there are also different levels of hearing health care professionals capable of working with individuals who have hearing loss, including audiologists and hearing instrument specialists. Understanding the key differences between these professionals will allow patients to make more educated decisions regarding their hearing health.

….FULL ARTICLE

HEARING AIDS VS. OVER-THE-COUNTER DEVICES

One of the most common questions I get after recommending hearing aid technology to a patient is: Why are they so expensive? This question not only stems from pricing advertised by local hearing healthcare providers, but also over-the-counter (OTC) devices that can be purchased for a fraction of the cost.

….FULL ARTICLE

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DO I REALLY NEED TWO HEARING AIDS

As a provider, patients often ask me why they need two hearing aids. There are several reasons for this. Think about your eyes. The brain is wired to receive information from both. The ears work the same way. In a few rare instances, a patient may benefit from only one hearing aid, and we will discuss that in this article, but more often than not, two hearing aids are recommended.


Quite a bit of research within the field of audiology has shown two ears are better than one. Why? When only one ear is amplified with the hearing aid, that side is doing all the work. This means the unaided ear is not contributing to the listening effort and risks declining more rapidly because it is not being stimulated. We have all heard of the “use it or lose it” principle, and this is very true with hearing and our ears as well. Let’s discuss the benefits of wearing two hearing aids. They include:



Improved Localization

Localization is an individual’s ability to determine where sound is coming from. We utilize timing and our brain’s incredible ability to pinpoint the exact location of the source. This process begins as sound waves

disturb the air. As the sound travels into the ear, it hits one ear slightly ahead of the other. The sound is then sent down the ear pathway and hits hair cells within the inner ear. These hair cells transform the sound waves into electrical impulses. Those timing differences, as well as the electrical impulses, are sent to the brain, allowing us to detect the location of the sound. We use this ability every day without being fully aware of it. Why? Because it happens automatically when both ears are performing at equal levels.


Many of the new technology options enable wireless communication between the two hearing aids. This is beneficial because it allows the units to work as a team to ensure localization cues between the ears are properly determined. How does this help someone who is hearing impaired? Localizing sound is more important than many people realize. It is especially important when any kind of background noise is present. More success with localization means the less stressed those with hearing loss become.


Improved Sound Quality

When thinking about the type of sound quality you prefer, do you like mono or stereo sound better? Most people would say stereo. When two hearing aids are

properly adjusted (meaning the individual needs of each ear are being met), you enjoy a better sound quality. This is because everything sounds better in stereo. Additionally, the benefit of appropriately adjusted sounds means soft sounds, including grandchildren’s voices or a quiet conversation with someone you love, can now be audible.


Safety Precautions

When they are able to distinguish the location of sound, individuals can potentially stay out of harm’s way – for example, hearing oncoming traffic or someone yelling your name to warn you.


Improved Speech Understanding

The ability to understand speech starts with getting as much volume to the brain as possible. When the two ears are working as a team, the brain can get more input, compared to only one ear doing all of the work. This can also help with signal clarity. This increased amount of information can lead to more success during conversations with others.


When is one hearing aid appropriate?

As previously mentioned, there are a few rare exceptions where someone may only have one hearing aid. One circumstance is if an individual has one ear with a hearing loss and the other ear has normal hearing sensitivity. With proper testing, an audiologist should be able to determine if the ear with hearing loss is usable and would benefit from technology, thus allowing both ears to become equal participants in the listening effort.


Another scenario for only having one hearing aid is when an ear is not usable. Again, an audiologist will be able to determine this through proper testing. If testing reveals the hearing aid will not benefit the individual’s hearing capabilities, a hearing aid should not be recommended.


Conclusion:  


We have only discussed a few of the important reasons why two hearing aids are better than one. The list is truly endless. For these reasons, it is crucial for an individual who suspects hearing loss to schedule an appointment with a reputable audiologist. Various tests need to be completed during a comprehensive evaluation to not only determine the degree of hearing loss but also the benefit of hearing aids and whether you need one unit or two. If you want to know more, reach out to an audiologist you trust and they will be happy to provide you with more information.

DR TIFFANY BREWER

Dr. Tiffany Brewer completed her Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) at the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine and her undergraduate degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She is licensed by the state of Kentucky as an Audiologist and Hearing Instrument Specialist.

more articles by Dr Tiffany Brewer