Hearing with both ears

From crossing the street with confidence to having conversations in noisy places, there are critical advantages to hearing with both ears.

Three adult eating in the garden

What you'll find on this page

  • The importance of hearing with both ears.
  • The benefits of hearing with a hearing aid and a hearing implant.
  • One person's story about hearing with two implants.

The importance of hearing with both ears

Ears work as a team, and the brain needs both to process speech and locate sound direction.1 Hearing with both ears is known as binaural hearing. If you can only hear in one ear (unilateral hearing) it’s difficult to perform the tasks listed below.

Understand speech in noise

If you can only hear in one ear it makes it more difficult to pick up on quiet speech in a noisy environment.

Hearing with one ear also makes it more difficult for your brain to practice selective listening.2

Locate sound2

Not being able to tell where sound is coming from causes problems.

For children, it can be hard to understand the teacher in class or the coach on the sports field.

For adults, driving through traffic can be difficult. For both, crossing a busy road could prove dangerous.

Avoid the head shadow effect

When you can only hear with one ear, sounds have to travel around your head so your 'good ear' can send them to the brain. As a result, sounds can be difficult to hear and understand clearly, especially in noise.1 This is particularily true for higher-frequency sounds.1

Enjoy music

People who have lost hearing in one ear say they enjoy music less and describe it as sounding unpleasant, indistinct or unnatural, compared to how it sounded with both ears.3

Binaural hearing and speech development in children

Hearing with both ears helps children better understand speech and language. This is important for children’s learning and development.4

"Binaural hearing provides you with the ability to tell where sounds are coming from and to understand speech in noisy environments. It allows you to take advantage of brain mechanisms that can separate the speech you want to hear from other sounds in the area."

- Ruth Litovsky, Ph.D., Professor of Communication Disorders, University of Wisconsin, Director, Binaural Hearing Lab, Waisman Center

What is bimodal hearing?

Bimodal hearing combines the benefits of a hearing aid in one ear and a hearing implant in the other ear. You may find sounds are easier to hear and speech is easier to understand.4-6

The result can provide some of the following benefits:

  • improved speech understanding, especially in noise5,6

  • better determination where sounds are coming from7

  • enjoy music more with better sound appreciation.8

Studies show a big leap in hearing performance with a bimodal hearing solution compared to hearing aids alone.

Bilateral hearing: two hearing implants

If you have a bimodal solution but still struggle to understand speech, bilateral hearing implants could help you communicate effectively.

Find a clinic

There are no clinics close to you.

You can search for clinics in a different location, or contact Cochlear to understand what the next steps for you would be.


Please seek advice from your health professional about treatments for hearing loss. Outcomes may vary, and your health professional will advise you about the factors which could affect your outcome. Always read the instructions for use. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representative for product information.

Views expressed are those of the individual. Consult your health professional to determine if you are a candidate for Cochlear technology.

For a full list of Cochlear’s trademarks, please visit our Terms of Use page.


  1. Weaver, J. "Single-Sided Deafness: Causes, and Solutions, Take Many Forms." Hearing Journal 68.3 (2015): 20-24. Web. 28 Apr. 2017. http://journals.lww.com/thehearingjournal/Fulltext/2015/03000/Single_Sided_Deafness___Causes,_and_Solutions,.1.aspx.
  2. Hearing Aids | What is a Binaural Hearing Aid [Internet]. Betterhearing.org. 2018 [cited 12 September 2018].

  3. Meehan S, Hough E, Crundwell G, Knappett R, Smith M, Baguley D. The Impact of Single-Sided Deafness upon Music Appreciation. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. 2017;28(5):444-462.
  4. Ching TY, Psarros C, Hill M, Dillon H, Incerti P. Should children who use cochlear implants wear hearing aids in the opposite ear?. Ear and hearing. 2001 Oct 1;22(5):365-80.
  5. Gottermeier L, De Filippo C, Clark C. Trials of a Contralateral Hearing Aid After Long-Term Unilateral Cochlear Implant Use in Early-Onset Deafness. American journal of audiology. 2016 Jun 1;25(2):85-99.
  6. Dorman MF, Gifford RH, Spahr AJ, McKarns SA. The benefits of combining acoustic and electric stimulation for the recognition of speech, voice and melodies. Audiology and Neurotology. 2008;13(2):105-12

  7. Potts LG, Skinner MW, Litovsky RA, Strube MJ, Kuk F. Recognition and localization of speech by adult cochlear implant recipients wearing a digital hearing aid in the nonimplanted ear (bimodal hearing). Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. 2009 Jun 1;20(6):353-73.
  8. Sucher CM, McDermott HJ. Bimodal stimulation: benefits for music perception and sound quality. Cochlear Implants International. 2009 Jan 1;10(S1):96-9.