Newsletter - October/November 2011

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Two Ears Are Better Than One

Many people who decide to seek better hearing with the use of amplification are surprised when the audiologist recommends that they be fitted with a hearing aid on each ear.  This is not a recommendation made for financial reasons. It is a recommendation made to offer the patient with the best hearing they should expect.

Research in the latter part of the 20th century focused on the benefits of binaural (both ears) hearing aid fittings. This research began due to an increased number of individuals with unilateral (one ear) hearing loss requesting hearing aid fitting of the bad ear. They described many difficulties in listening and speech understanding. Once they were fitted with the hearing aid and having the hearing the same in both ears, they found great improvement in their communication abilities.

So, what are the benefits of hearing equally from both ears versus having good hearing in only one ear?

  • There is improved speech understanding in noisy environments. This is possibly the most important reason for the recommendation. The brain works best when the signal is balanced between the two ears. This allows the brain to sift through the noise that is present in many environments.

  • Less power is needed when two hearing aids are worn. The when an equal signal from both ears meets in the brain a 6db increase in loudness is found. This is a significant boost to hearing. It allows loud sounds to be more comfortable and listening less stressful.

  • Two hearing aids gives you “stereo” hearing. Any of you old enough to remember the “monograph” know how much better music sounded when the “stereograph” was introduced.

  • Sounds and speech is more pleasant. Softer sounds (birds chirping, etc.) can be detected.

  • Localization of sound sources is much better. The person calling your name, the ambulance siren or the car horn will be found better when both ears can work together.
    The brain is able to give you more “spatial perception”. Spatial perception is how you deal with the environment. People using binaural amplification are much better able to manage their environments. They find that they can actually participate in conversation with the people seated on either side of them at a dinner party or in a restaurant.

Although the final decision is ultimately the patient’s, these are the primary reason why binaural amplification is recommended for those with hearing loss in each ear. The knowledge of why this recommendation is made will make you a more informed consumer and assist you in your final decision for hearing aids.

Sound Distraction For Tinnitus Management

Research has shown that tinnitus does not become a problem until it begins to interfere with a person’s everyday life. Many people have tinnitus and have no issue with the presence of the noise. Others become very irritated and anxious because of its presence. These reactions can also be due to an often accompanying sensitivity to sound, medically known as hyperacusis.
Research has also shown that the introduction of a randomly occurring tonal signals is found to"distract" the brain from the tinnitus. Rather than “masking”, trying to cover up the tinnitus, the sound distraction technique has been found to reduce the impact of the tinnitus on many that choose this technique.
One hearing aid company, Widex, had introduced the Zen option on its higher end hearing aids. They have recently added Zen to their mid-range circuits. This has allowed greater patient options in both pricing and styles of hearing aids. This has allowed more tinnitus sufferers to experience the benefit of Zen.

As always, please feel free to call our office at 847-382-5700 to discuss this option with Dr. Hansel.

Did you know?

A. The better hearing institute study found that 86% of the 2000 hearing aid users surveyed are satisfied with the benefit they derive from their hearing aids.

B. The same study showed the percentage of those satisfied in different situations: 91% in one-on-one situations; 85% in small groups; 80% when watching television; 78% when outdoors; 78% during leisure activities; 77% when shopping and 77% in a car.