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Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you looking into investing in hearing aids?

If so, it can feel intimidating at first. There are countless options available, and the obscure terminology doesn’t help.

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

Hearing loss and testing

High-frequency hearing lossthis is the most commonly encountered type of hearing loss. Patients with high-frequency hearing loss have the most 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 kind of permanent hearing loss triggered by being exposed to loud noise, the aging process, genetics, or other health problems.

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

Audiogram – the graph which provides a visual representation of your hearing exam results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing consultant captures 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 sequence of high-frequency hearing loss.

Decibel (dB) – the unit utilized to measure sound level or intensity. Regular conversation registers at approximately 60 decibels, and long-term direct exposure to any sound in excess of 80 decibels could cause 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. Picture 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 heard at each individual frequency.

Degree of hearing loss – Hearing loss is labeled 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. Usually a sign of hearing damage or loss.

Hearing aid styles

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

Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid defined by its size and location relative to the ear. Core styles include behind-the-ear, in-the-ear, and in-the-canal.

Behind the ear (BTE) hearing aids – the majority of hearing aid parts are contained inside of a case that rests behind the ear, attached 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 inside of a case that fits in the outside part of the ear.

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

Hearing aid parts

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

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

Digital signal processor – a special microprocessor within the 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 magnified sound to the ear.

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

Hearing aid advanced features

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

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

Telecoils – a coil located within the hearing aid that allows it to connect to wireless signals emanating from telephones, assistive listening devices, and hearing loops installed in public venues.

Noise reduction – functionality that helps the hearing aid to distinguish speech sounds from background noise, which results in the augmentation of speech and the inhibition of distracting noise.

Bluetooth technology – enables the hearing aid to communicate wirelessly with a number of devices, including smartphones, computers, audio players, and other compatible products.


Not sure 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!