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Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you considering purchasing hearing aids?

If the answer is yes, it can seem overwhelming at first. There are a number of options out there, and the obscure terminology doesn’t help.

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

Hearing loss and testing

High-frequency hearing loss – this is the most prevalent form of hearing loss. People with high-frequency hearing loss have the greatest trouble hearing higher frequency sounds, such as the sounds of speech.

Sensorineural hearing loss – this form of hearing loss comes about when there is damage to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss brought on by direct exposure to loud noise, aging, genetics, or other medical ailments.

Bilateral hearing loss – hearing loss in both ears, which could be symmetrical (the same degree of loss in both ears) or asymmetrical (varied degrees of loss in each ear). Bilateral hearing loss is as a rule best treated with two hearing aids.

Audiogram – the diagram that provides a visual description of your hearing exam results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing consultant registers the lowest decibel level you are able to hear at each frequency. If you necessitate higher volumes to hear higher frequencies, your audiogram will show a pattern of high-frequency hearing loss.

Decibel (dB) – the unit used to measure sound level or intensity. Ordinary conversation registers at approximately 60 decibels, and sustained exposure to any sound more than 80 decibels could result in irreversible hearing loss. And 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 heard at each individual 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 relentless ringing or buzzing in the ears when no external sound is present. Typically a sign 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 distinct hearing loss.

Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid characterized by its size and location in relation 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 enclosed within a case that sits 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 within a case that fits in the exterior part of the ear.

In the canal (ITC) hearing aids – the hearing aid components are contained in a case that fits within 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 pliable 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 within a hearing aid that can adjust and enhance sound.

Amplifier – the component of the hearing aid that boosts the volume of sound.

Speaker – the hearing aid component that supplies the magnified sound to the ear.

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

Hearing aid advanced features

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

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

Telecoils – a coil installed within the hearing aid that allows it to connect with 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, leading to the augmentation of speech and the suppression of distracting noise.

Bluetooth technology – permits the hearing aid to connect wirelessly with a variety of devices, including mobile phones, computers, audio players, and other compatible devices.

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

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