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Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you looking into investing in hearing aids?

If the answer is yes, it can seem overwhelming at first. There are numerous options out there, and the confusing terminology doesn’t help.

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

Hearing loss and testing

High-frequency hearing loss – this is the most common form of hearing loss. People with high-frequency hearing loss have the greatest difficulties hearing higher frequency sounds, like the sounds of speech.

Sensorineural hearing loss – this type of hearing loss occurs when there is injury to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most common form of permanent hearing loss brought on by exposure to loud noise, aging, genetics, or other health problems.

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 representation of your hearing testing results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing practitioner registers the lowest decibel level that you can hear at each frequency. If you need 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 about 60 decibels, and continuous 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. 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 perceived at each frequency.

Degree of hearing loss – Hearing loss is generally characterized 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. Normally a signal of hearing injury 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 distinct hearing loss.

Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid specified by its size and position relative to the ear. Main 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 within a case that is placed 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 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 within 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 molded to the contours of the individual’s ears, utilized 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 component of the hearing aid that boosts the volume of sound.

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

Wireless antenna – available in select hearing aids, permitting wireless connection to compatible equipment such as smartphones and music players.

Hearing aid advanced features

Variable programming – hearing aid programming that permits the user to change 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 reducing background noise.

Telecoils – a coil situated within the hearing aid that enables it to connect with wireless signals originating 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, resulting in the enhancement of speech and the suppression of distracting noise.

Bluetooth technology – permits the hearing aid to communicate wirelessly with a number of devices, such as cell phones, computers, MP3 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 requirements. Call us today!