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Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you planning on purchasing hearing aids?

If the answer is yes, it can feel intimidating at first. There are a lot of options available, and the confusing terminology doesn’t help.

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

Hearing loss and testing

High-frequency hearing loss – this is the most prevalent form of hearing loss. Patients with high-frequency hearing loss have the greatest difficulties hearing higher frequency sounds, such as the sounds of speech.

Sensorineural hearing loss – this type of hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most prevalent form of permanent hearing loss triggered by direct exposure to loud noise, the aging process, genetics, or other medical ailments.

Bilateral hearing loss – hearing loss in both ears, which may be symmetrical (the same level of loss in both ears) or asymmetrical (varied degrees of loss in each ear). Bilateral hearing loss is ordinarily best treated with two hearing aids.

Audiogram – the chart which provides a visual depiction of your hearing testing results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing specialist registers the lowest decibel level you are able to hear at each frequency. If you require higher volumes to hear higher frequencies, your audiogram will show a pattern of high-frequency hearing loss.

Decibel (dB) – the unit used to measure sound level or intensity. Typical conversation registers at about 60 decibels, and extended exposure to any sound above 80 decibels could result in irreversible hearing loss. Seeing as the scale is logarithmic, an increase of 6-10 decibels doubles the volume of the sound.

Frequency – represents pitch as measured in hertz. Imagine 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 detected at each individual frequency.

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

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

Hearing aid styles

Digital hearing aid – hearing aids that include a digital microchip, utilized to custom-program the hearing aids to match each person’s unique hearing loss.

Hearing aid stylethe type of hearing aid specified by its size and location in relation 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 parts 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 enclosed within a case that fits in the external part of the ear.

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

Hearing aid parts

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

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

Digital signal processor – a special microprocessor within a hearing aid that can manipulate and enhance sound.

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

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

Wireless antenna – available in specific hearing aids, permitting wireless connection to compatible gadgets such as mobile phones and music players.

Hearing aid advanced features

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

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

Telecoils – a coil located inside of the hearing aid that enables 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 differentiate speech sounds from background noise, resulting in the augmentation of speech and the inhibition of disruptive noise.

Bluetooth technology – allows the hearing aid to communicate wirelessly with a number of devices, such as mobile phones, computers, MP3 players, and other compatible devices.


Uncertain of which features you need, or which you could live without? Let us help you find the best hearing aid for your distinct needs. Call us today!

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