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Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you thinking of purchasing hearing aids?

If so, it can seem overwhelming at first. There are a number of choices available, 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 prepared to pick out the best hearing aid for you.

Hearing loss and testing

High-frequency hearing loss – this is the most commonly encountered kind of hearing loss. Individuals with high-frequency hearing loss have the most difficulties hearing higher frequency sounds, like 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 common kind of permanent hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise, the aging process, genetics, or other health problems.

Bilateral hearing loss – hearing loss in both ears, which could be symmetrical (the equivalent degree of loss in both ears) or asymmetrical (different degrees of loss in each ear). Bilateral hearing loss is in most cases best treated with two hearing aids.

Audiogram – the diagram that provides a visual representation of your hearing test results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing specialist registers the lowest decibel level you are able to hear at each frequency. If you need 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 strength. Regular conversation registers at about 60 decibels, and long-term exposure to any sound above 80 decibels could cause permanent hearing loss. Since the scale is logarithmic, an increase of 6-10 decibels doubles the volume of the sound.

Frequency – represents pitch as measured in hertz. Think about 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 generally categorized as mild (26-40 dB loss), moderate (41-55), severe (71-90), or profound (91+).

Tinnitus – a constant ringing or buzzing in the ears when no external sound is present. Frequently a signal 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 person’s distinctive hearing loss.

Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid specified 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 parts are contained inside of 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 parts are enclosed 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 formed to the contours of the individual’s ears, utilized for the fitting of hearing aids.

Microphone – the hearing aid component that picks up sound in the environment and converts the sound waves into an electrical signal.

Digital signal processor – a specialized microprocessor inside 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 delivers the enhanced sound to the ear.

Wireless antenna – available in certain hearing aids, enabling wireless connection to compatible gadgets such as smartphones and music players.

Hearing aid advanced features

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

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

Telecoils – a coil installed 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 helps the hearing aid to differentiate speech sounds from background noise, resulting in the enhancement of speech and the suppression of distracting noise.

Bluetooth technology – permits the hearing aid to communicate wirelessly with a variety of devices, such as smartphones, computers, MP3 players, and other compatible devices.

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