Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you planning on purchasing 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 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 common type of hearing loss. Patients with high-frequency hearing loss have the most difficulties hearing higher frequency sounds, including 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 kind of permanent hearing loss triggered by direct exposure to loud noise, aging, genetics, or other medical conditions.

Bilateral hearing loss – hearing loss in both ears, which may be symmetrical (the same degree 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 description of your hearing exam results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing practitioner records 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 utilized to measure sound level or strength. Typical conversation registers at around 60 decibels, and continuous direct exposure to any sound in excess of 80 decibels could cause permanent 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. 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 heard at each 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 continual ringing or buzzing in the ears when no external sound is present. Typically a sign 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 individual’s unique hearing loss.

Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid characterized by its size and position 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 components are contained inside of a case that fits 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 within a case that fits in the external 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 available that are virtually invisible when worn.

Hearing aid parts

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

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

Digital signal processor – a special microprocessor inside of a hearing aid that can adjust 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 select hearing aids, enabling wireless connectivity to compatible devices such as mobile phones and music players.

Hearing aid advanced features

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

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

Telecoils – a coil positioned within 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 distinguish speech sounds from background noise, which results in the augmentation of speech and the inhibition of distracting noise.

Bluetooth technology – allows the hearing aid to communicate wirelessly with several devices, including mobile phones, computers, audio players, and other compatible devices.

Not sure which features you need, or which you could live without? Let us help you discover the best hearing aid for your unique requirements. Give us a call today!