Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you planning on purchasing hearing aids?

If so, it can feel intimidating at first. There are a number of choices 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 commonly encountered form of hearing loss. Individuals with high-frequency hearing loss have the greatest trouble hearing higher frequency sounds, like the sounds of speech.

Sensorineural hearing loss – this type of hearing loss develops when there is injury to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss brought on 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 (varied degrees of loss in each ear). Bilateral hearing loss is in most cases best treated with two hearing aids.

Audiogram – the chart which provides a visual depiction of your hearing testing results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing specialist registers the lowest decibel level that you can hear at each frequency. If you need 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. Routine conversation registers at about 60 decibels, and continuous direct exposure to any sound in excess of 80 decibels could result in irreversible 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 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 heard at each frequency.

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

Tinnitus – a chronic ringing or buzzing in the ears when no external sound is present. Generally a signal of hearing injury or loss.

Hearing aid styles

Digital hearing aidhearing aids that incorporate a digital microchip, used to custom-program the hearing aids to fit each individual’s distinct hearing loss.

Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid defined by its size and location in relation to the ear. Main 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, 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 parts are enclosed in a case that fits within 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 shaped to the curves of the patient’s ears, used for the fitting of hearing aids.

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

Digital signal processor – a specialized microprocessor within a hearing aid that can adjust 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 certain hearing aids, enabling wireless connectivity to compatible equipment such as phones and music players.

Hearing aid advanced features

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

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

Telecoils – a coil situated inside of the hearing aid that enables it to connect 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 differentiate speech sounds from background noise, which results in the enhancement of speech and the suppression of disruptive noise.

Bluetooth technology – enables the hearing aid to communicate wirelessly with several devices, such as mobile phones, computers, MP3 players, and other compatible products.


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