Hearing Loss and Hearing Aid Terminology Explained

Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you thinking of investing in hearing aids?

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

That’s why we’re going to describe 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 common type of hearing loss. Individuals with high-frequency hearing loss have the greatest difficulty hearing higher frequency sounds, such as the sounds of speech.

Sensorineural hearing loss – this form of hearing loss develops when there is damage to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most common form of permanent hearing loss triggered by exposure to loud noise, the aging process, 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 normally best treated with two hearing aids.

Audiogram – the graph which provides a visual representation of your hearing assessment results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing professional captures 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 utilized to measure sound level or intensity. Typical conversation registers at around 60 decibels, and long-term direct exposure to any sound in excess of 80 decibels could result in permanent 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. Think of 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 classified 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. Usually a signal of hearing injury or loss.

Hearing aid styles

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

Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid characterized by its size and location 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 within 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 outside part of the ear.

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

Hearing aid parts

Earmold – a piece of plastic, acrylic, or other soft material that is molded to the curves of the individual’s ears, utilized 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 inside a hearing aid that can adjust and enhance sound.

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

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

Wireless antenna – available in select hearing aids, enabling wireless connectivity to compatible gadgets such as phones and music players.

Hearing aid advanced features

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

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

Telecoils – a coil positioned inside of the hearing aid that enables it to connect to wireless signals originating from telephones, assistive listening devices, and hearing loops installed in public venues.

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

Bluetooth technology – permits the hearing aid to connect wirelessly with several devices, including smartphones, computers, MP3 players, and other compatible products.

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

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.