Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you looking into purchasing hearing aids?

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

That’s why we’re going to explain the most common and significant terms, so when you work with your hearing professional you’ll be prepared to find the ideal hearing aid for you.

Hearing loss and testing

High-frequency hearing lossthis is the most prevalent 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 occurs when there is damage to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most prevalent kind of permanent hearing loss caused by direct exposure to loud noise, the aging process, genetics, or other health issues.

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 depiction of your hearing exam results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing consultant documents 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. Regular conversation registers at about 60 decibels, and continuous direct exposure to any sound more than 80 decibels could result in 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 individual frequency.

Degree of hearing loss – Hearing loss is generally labeled as mild (26-40 dB loss), moderate (41-55), severe (71-90), or profound (91+).

Tinnitus – a persistent 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 accommodate each individual’s distinctive hearing loss.

Hearing aid stylethe type of hearing aid characterized by its size and position relative to the ear. Main styles include behind-the-ear, in-the-ear, and in-the-canal.

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

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

Hearing aid parts

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

Microphone – the hearing aid component that picks up environmental sound 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 part 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 specific hearing aids, permitting wireless connectivity to compatible gadgets such as mobile 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 congested restaurant).

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

Telecoils – a coil placed inside of the hearing aid that allows it to hook up 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, leading to the augmentation of speech and the inhibition of disruptive noise.

Bluetooth technology – permits the hearing aid to communicate wirelessly with a variety of devices, such as smartphones, computers, audio players, and other compatible devices.


Uncertain of which features you need, or which you could live without? Let us help you discover the best hearing aid for your distinct needs. Call us today!

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