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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 feel overwhelming at first. There are several options out there, and the obscure terminology doesn’t help.

That’s why we’re going to describe the most common and important terms, so when you work with your hearing professional you’ll be well prepared to find the ideal 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 most trouble hearing higher frequency sounds, like 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 form of permanent hearing loss triggered by direct exposure to loud noise, the aging process, genetics, or other medical conditions.

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

Audiogram – the graph that provides a visual description of your hearing test results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing consultant registers 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. Routine conversation registers at about 60 decibels, and prolonged exposure to any sound over 80 decibels could lead to 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 heard 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 continual ringing or buzzing in the ears when no exterior sound is present. Often an indication of hearing injury or loss.

Hearing aid styles

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

Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid specified by its size and location in relation 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 is placed 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 parts are contained inside of a case that fits in the exterior 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 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 contours of the individual’s ears, utilized for the fitting of hearing aids.

Microphone – the hearing aid part that picks up external 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 increases the volume of sound.

Speaker – the hearing aid component that supplies the magnified sound to the ear.

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

Hearing aid advanced features

Variable programming – hearing aid programming that enables the individual to adjust sound settings depending on the environment (e.g. at home versus in a chaotic restaurant).

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

Telecoils – a coil located within the hearing aid that allows 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 augmentation of speech and the suppression of disruptive noise.

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