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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 countless options available, and the obscure 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. People with high-frequency hearing loss have the greatest difficulties hearing higher frequency sounds, including the sounds of speech.

Sensorineural hearing loss – this type of hearing loss develops when there is damage to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most prevalent type of permanent hearing loss brought on by exposure to loud noise, aging, genetics, or other health issues.

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 ordinarily best treated with two hearing aids.

Audiogram – the graph which provides a visual depiction 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 intensity. Ordinary conversation registers at approximately 60 decibels, and extended direct exposure to any sound more than 80 decibels could lead to 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. 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 can be characterized 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. Often an indication of hearing injury or loss.

Hearing aid styles

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

Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid characterized by its size and location 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 enclosed inside of a case that fits in the outer 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 virtually invisible when worn.

Hearing aid parts

Earmold – a piece of plastic, acrylic, or other soft material that is formed to the contours 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 the 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 component that delivers the magnified sound to the ear.

Wireless antenna – available in specific hearing aids, allowing for wireless connectivity to compatible gadgets such as phones 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 busy restaurant).

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

Telecoils – a coil situated within 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 assists the hearing aid to distinguish speech sounds from background noise, resulting in the enhancement of speech and the inhibition of disruptive noise.

Bluetooth technology – enables the hearing aid to communicate wirelessly with a number of devices, including mobile devices, computers, MP3 players, and other compatible products.


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!