Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you planning on investing in hearing aids?

If so, it can seem overwhelming at first. There are a lot of choices available, and the confusing terminology doesn’t help.

That’s why we’re going to define the most common and important terms, so when you work with your hearing professional you’ll be prepared to find the ideal hearing aid for you.

Hearing loss and testing

High-frequency hearing loss – this is the most commonly encountered form of hearing loss. Patients with high-frequency hearing loss have the greatest trouble hearing higher frequency sounds, like the sounds of speech.

Sensorineural hearing loss – this form of hearing loss comes about when there is injury to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss caused by being exposed to loud noise, the aging process, genetics, or other medical ailments.

Bilateral hearing loss – hearing loss in both ears, which may be symmetrical (the equivalent level of loss in both ears) or asymmetrical (different levels of loss in each ear). Bilateral hearing loss is normally best treated with two hearing aids.

Audiogram – the chart which provides a visual description of your hearing testing results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing consultant registers the lowest decibel level that you can hear at each frequency. If you necessitate higher volumes to hear higher frequencies, your audiogram will show a sequence of high-frequency hearing loss.

Decibel (dB) – the unit used to measure sound level or strength. Normal conversation registers at approximately 60 decibels, and extended direct exposure to any sound above 80 decibels could lead to irreversible hearing loss. Seeing that the scale is logarithmic, an increase of 6-10 decibels doubles the volume of the sound.

Frequency – represents pitch as measured in hertz. Visualize moving up the keys on a piano, from left to right (low-frequency/pitch to high-frequency/pitch).

Threshold of hearing – The lowest decibel level that can be perceived at each frequency.

Degree of hearing loss – Hearing loss can be characterized as mild (26-40 dB loss), moderate (41-55), severe (71-90), or profound (91+).

Tinnitus – a prolonged ringing or buzzing in the ears when no external sound is present. Normally an indication of hearing damage or loss.

Hearing aid styles

Digital hearing aidhearing aids that include a digital microchip, used to custom-program the hearing aids to accommodate each individual’s unique hearing loss.

Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid specified by its size and position relative to the ear. Core styles consist of behind-the-ear, in-the-ear, and in-the-canal.

Behind the ear (BTE) hearing aids – the majority of hearing aid components are enclosed inside of a case that fits behind the ear, connected to an earmold by a clear plastic tube. Mini-BTE hearing aids are also available.

In the ear (ITE) hearing aids – the hearing aid components are contained inside of a case that fits in the external part of the ear.

In the canal (ITC) hearing aids – the hearing aid components are contained in a case that fits within the ear canal. Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids are also available that are virtually invisible when worn.

Hearing aid parts

Earmold – a piece of plastic, acrylic, or other pliable material that is formed to the curves of the individual’s ears, utilized for the fitting of hearing aids.

Microphone – the hearing aid component that picks up environmental sound and converts the sound waves into an electrical signal.

Digital signal processor – a special microprocessor inside a hearing aid that can adjust and enhance sound.

Amplifier – the part of the hearing aid that boosts the volume of sound.

Speaker – the hearing aid component that supplies the magnified sound to the ear.

Wireless antenna – available in certain hearing aids, permitting wireless connectivity to compatible devices such as phones and music players.

Hearing aid advanced features

Variable programming – hearing aid programming that allows the individual to adjust sound settings according to the environment (e.g. at home versus in a congested restaurant).

Directional microphones – microphones that can center on sound originating from a specific location while reducing background noise.

Telecoils – a coil installed inside of the hearing aid that allows it to hook up to wireless signals emanating from telephones, assistive listening devices, and hearing loops installed in public venues.

Noise reduction – functionality that assists the hearing aid to distinguish speech sounds from background noise, which results in the enhancement of speech and the suppression of distracting noise.

Bluetooth technology – allows the hearing aid to communicate wirelessly with several devices, including mobile devices, computers, MP3 players, and other compatible devices.


Not sure which features you need, or which you could live without? Let us help you discover the best hearing aid for your unique requirements. Give us a call today!

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