Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you contemplating investing in hearing aids?

If so, it can seem intimidating at first. There are countless choices out there, and the obscure terminology doesn’t help.

That’s why we’re going to make clear the most common and important terms, so when you talk with your hearing professional you’ll be prepared to find the best hearing aid for you.

Hearing loss and testing

High-frequency hearing loss – this is the most prevalent kind of hearing loss. Individuals with high-frequency hearing loss have the most difficulty hearing higher frequency sounds, such as the sounds of speech.

Sensorineural hearing loss – this form of hearing loss occurs 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 being exposed to loud noise, the aging process, genetics, or other medical ailments.

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

Audiogram – the diagram that provides a visual representation of your hearing testing results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing specialist records 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 intensity. Typical conversation registers at approximately 60 decibels, and prolonged direct exposure to any sound in excess of 80 decibels could result in irreversible 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. Picture 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 detected at each individual frequency.

Degree of hearing loss – Hearing loss can be labeled 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 exterior sound is present. Typically a sign of hearing damage 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 unique hearing loss.

Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid specified by its size and location in relation 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 contained within 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 enclosed 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 available that are practically 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 component that picks up environmental sound 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 component of the hearing aid that increases the volume of sound.

Speaker – the hearing aid part that delivers the enhanced sound to the ear.

Wireless antenna – available in specific hearing aids, permitting wireless connection to compatible devices such as smartphones 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 chaotic restaurant).

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

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

Bluetooth technology – permits the hearing aid to connect wirelessly with a variety of devices, such as mobile phones, computers, audio 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 requirements. Give us a call today!