In many cases, a child’s hearing loss is symmetrical. This means that the hearing loss in one ear is nearly identical to that of the other ear. Other times, an asymmetrical hearing loss may be present, in which one ear’s hearing is worse than the other. In either case, a family may weigh the pros and cons of adding a single hearing aid or cochlear implant, and amplifying sound in just one ear. However, when hearing loss is present in both ears, there are several advantages to bilateral amplification.
What is Bilateral Amplification?
Bilateral amplification is the process of adding hearing assistive technology to both ears. This could be two cochlear implants, two hearing aids or one of each if an asymmetrical hearing loss is present. A bilateral amplification recipient will enjoy several sound quality benefits when compared to a unilaterally amplified person.
What are the Advantages of Bilateral Amplification?
In general, sound in two ears is better than one. A person who is unilaterally amplified may miss out on words or sounds that are coming from the side without hearing assistive technology. For example, someone driving a car with a hearing aid only on the left side may have trouble hearing the speech of their passenger.
Sound localization improves dramatically with bilateral amplification. This means that a person will have an easier time in identifying where a sound is coming from if they are wearing two listening devices.
Additionally, those with bilateral amplification experience enhanced speech perception in louder environments. Those with two devices are able to better understand and localize speech in places like classrooms, noisy restaurants and other events with multiple sound sources.
Bilateral amplification also helps with word recognition in one-on-one situations. Whereas a unilaterally amplified person may be more prone to miss parts of speech or certain words in a conversation, a bilaterally amplified person has a better chance of understanding and comprehending spoken words.
Some parents may think that they can hold off on amplifying the second side because they can always add a hearing aid or cochlear implant on the second ear later. However, research has consistently shown that earlier amplification leads to better outcomes long term. In other words, an ear with hearing loss that is delayed in being fitted with a hearing aid or cochlear implant is unlikely to hear and listen as well as the opposite ear that was aided earlier. Waiting to aid the second side could have long-term adverse effects.
Consult Your Audiologist
As with all issues pertaining to hearing health, it is recommended that you consult your audiologist for the best course of action. An audiologist will help determine what amplification is best for your child. Additionally, an audiologist can make sure that each device is programmed correctly, ensuring that optimal sound is being received.
Once your child receives the amplification that is best for them, they can begin taking advantage of the services provided by CCHAT to develop their listening and spoken language skills. Click here to view all programs provided by CCHAT for children with hearing loss.