Perhaps you have wondered at some point why we have two ears instead of just one? The main reason for having an ear on each side of our head is to achieve sound localization or directional hearing. In other words, being able to accurately pinpoint the origin of sounds of our environment.
This is not only crucial for communication and interaction but also for detecting and identifying threats.
What is Binaural Hearing?
Binaural is simply the ability to hear out of two ears. The brain requires effective binaural hearing in order to make sense of sounds perceived in the environment. Sounds entering the left ear are processed by the right side of the brain, just as sounds coming in the right ear are processed by the left side of the brain. The two hemispheres then collaborate to interpret the sounds in the form of an intelligible message. If hearing is damaged in one or both ears, the messages can be distorted, incomprehensible, or missed entirely.
Both Ears are Critical for Good Hearing
If you or a loved one are experiencing hearing loss in one or both ears it is advisable to address the issue as quickly as possible. The longer hearing loss goes unchecked, the more problems it can create. It is quite rare that person has hearing loss in one ear while hearing remains perfect in the other. For this reason, most people with hearing loss will need to be fitted with two hearing aids to maintain binaural hearing capacity.
The Benefits of Binaural Hearing
Being able to hear properly with both ears is fundamental for speech comprehension and deciphering where sounds are coming from. Some of the general advantages of hearing well in both ears include:
- Communicating in noisy environments
- Reduced head shadow effect
- Better sound quality
- Better hearing range
- Sound localization
- Avoiding permanent hearing damage
- Sound cushioning
- Easier daily living
Communicating in Noisy Environments
Separating background noise from the sounds we are trying to hear can be difficult for people with hearing loss. In this type of situation, the brain needs input from both ears to decipher speech and to disregard the ambient noise from the surroundings. Also, people with hearing loss tend to have more trouble hearing high-frequency sounds, making it more tricky to differentiate some consonant sounds from others.
Reduced Head Shadow Effect
The Head Shadow Effect refers to a region of reduced amplitude of sound because it is obstructed by the head. People with more pronounced hearing loss in one ear may be continually trying to point their ‘good ear’ towards sounds they are trying to hear. Sounds coming towards the ‘bad ear’ will have to travel through or around the head to reach the ear with better hearing. The shadow effect can be avoided by wearing two hearing aids to provide the desired balance.
Better Sound Quality
It is no surprise that two ears provide sound quality than one. The ‘surround sound’ effect provides a natural volume boost for improved ease of listening.
Better Hearing Range
Being able to hear sounds clearly from both directions obviously contributes to a wider range of hearing. Hearing from only one ear means you will have an accurate hearing radius of just 180 degrees in social settings, rather than the full 360 degrees.
Having a full sound map of your environment in noisy areas offers the ability to tell what direction sounds are coming from and to accurately interpret that information. This is also important for safety and wellbeing to determine sounds that may indicate a threat.
Avoiding Hearing Damage
The longer the brain struggles to compensate for hearing loss in one or both ears, the greater the risk of lasting damage. Hearing aids can provide the balance needed to keep hearing and cognition functioning at optimal levels.
When two ears are absorbing the sounds in noisy areas it offers a bit of cushioning as the impact is divided between both ears.
Easier Daily Living
Effective binaural hearing helps take the stress out of daily communication and the ability to carry out regular routines. Not having to worry about making sure your good ear is facing the sounds you want to hear offers peace of mind and greater confidence.