Introduction: Binaural integration is the ability to process different messages when presented simultaneously in both ears. Any deficit in this mechanism implies poor auditory discrimination of background noise and difficulties in processing competing auditory signals.
Method: In the present study, pairs of digits were presented dichotically to both ears in adult subjects with normal hearing and bilaterally symmetrical sensorineural cochlear hearing loss.
Results: Hearing sensitivity, the difficulty in hearing the pairs and the effect of aging determine the capacity for correct recognition. In general, subjects with normal hearing score higher than those with hearing loss. Hypoacusic subjects show a deficit in the recognition of digits presented to the left ear and a greater advantage in the right ear.
Conclusions: The study of binaural integration mechanisms may be useful in the audiological evaluation of patients who reject bilateral amplification and in normal- hearing subjects presenting difficulties to understand speech in noisy settings.