A frequently asked question by new patients concerns the issue of needing one or two hearing aids. They hope they can "get by" with just one.

If we consider most cases of equal or symmetrical hearing loss, the recommendation is generally for two aids (binaural).

This is primarily due to the anatomy and neurology of the brain.

The speech processing center is designed to receive information from both ears and integrate it together.

There is a boost to the ease and clarity of understanding.

Having binaural amplification also helps with localization, such as the ability to tell where a sound comes from.

With only one hearing aid, no matter where the sound originates, it is perceived from that one side.

When the brain receives this binaural information, it is able to suppress or ignore background sounds more easily, which leads to improved understanding of speech in groups and social situations.

There is more of a feeling of ease of listening, normalcy and balance.

With newer technology, there are several models of hearing aids that actually "talk" to each other. The wireless communication between the hearing aids helps with the localization, background noise suppression, and clarity of speech understanding.

There are a few cases where one aid is appropriate.

If one ear is close to normal and the other has hearing loss, we would fit that poorer ear and essentially restore balance.

If one ear has a profound loss, with little or no ability to respond to sound or make use of amplification to understand, we would probably not fit that ear.

It may not be feasible to fit an ear with chronic infections, drainage or surgical complications.

The most common reason for wanting only one hearing aid is cost. This is a reality we deal with every day.

There is a price range of hearing aids and even basic technology will provide reasonable benefit.

If patients need to purchase just one initially, they generally try to add the second as soon as they can.

Most people perform better with two of a less expensive model than with one more expensive one.

Veralyn Davee is an audiologist at Hearing Aid Specialists in New Milford.