Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you planning on purchasing hearing aids?

If the answer is yes, it can seem intimidating at first. There are several options available, and the perplexing terminology doesn’t help.

That’s why we’re going to make clear the most common and significant terms, so when you talk 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 kind of hearing loss. Patients with high-frequency hearing loss have the greatest difficulty hearing higher frequency sounds, like the sounds of speech.

Sensorineural hearing loss – this form of hearing loss develops when there is injury to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most prevalent type 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 equivalent level of loss in both ears) or asymmetrical (different degrees of loss in each ear). Bilateral hearing loss is usually best treated with two hearing aids.

Audiogram – the graph that provides a visual depiction of your hearing testing results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing practitioner records 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. Typical conversation registers at around 60 decibels, and extended direct exposure to any sound more than 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. 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 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 exterior 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 complement each person’s distinctive hearing loss.

Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid specified by its size and location in relation to the ear. Main styles include 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 sits 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 parts are enclosed inside of a case that fits in the exterior part of the ear.

In the canal (ITC) hearing aids – the hearing aid components are contained in a case that fits inside of the ear canal. Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids are also available that are nearly 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, 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 specialized microprocessor within a hearing aid that can manipulate and enhance sound.

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

Speaker – the hearing aid part that delivers the magnified sound to the ear.

Wireless antenna – available in specific hearing aids, enabling wireless connection to compatible devices such as smartphones and music players.

Hearing aid advanced features

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

Directional microphones – microphones that can focus on sound coming from a specified location while minimizing background noise.

Telecoils – a coil installed inside of the hearing aid that allows it to connect with 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 distracting noise.

Bluetooth technology – enables the hearing aid to communicate wirelessly with several devices, such as cell phones, computers, MP3 players, and other compatible products.


Uncertain of which features you need, or which you could live without? Let us help you discover the ideal hearing aid for your distinct requirements. Give us a call today!

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