Are you contemplating investing in hearing aids?
If the answer is yes, it can feel intimidating at first. There are numerous 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 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 prevalent kind of hearing loss. Patients with high-frequency hearing loss have the greatest difficulty hearing higher frequency sounds, such as the sounds of speech.
Sensorineural hearing loss – this form of hearing loss comes about when there is injury to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most common kind of permanent hearing loss caused by direct exposure to loud noise, aging, genetics, or other health issues.
Bilateral hearing loss – hearing loss in both ears, which may be symmetrical (the same degree of loss in both ears) or asymmetrical (varied levels 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 description of your hearing assessment results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing consultant documents 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 sequence of high-frequency hearing loss.
Decibel (dB) – the unit utilized to measure sound level or intensity. Typical conversation registers at about 60 decibels, and continuous exposure to any sound in excess of 80 decibels could lead to permanent 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 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 exterior sound is present. Often a sign of hearing injury or loss.
Hearing aid styles
Digital hearing aid – hearing aids that incorporate a digital microchip, utilized to custom-program the hearing aids to accommodate each individual’s unique hearing loss.
Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid defined by its size and position relative to the ear. Core 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 rests 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 components are enclosed within 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 available 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 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 a hearing aid that can manipulate and enhance sound.
Amplifier – the component of the hearing aid that boosts the volume of sound.
Speaker – the hearing aid component that supplies the enhanced sound to the ear.
Wireless antenna – available in select hearing aids, enabling wireless connection to compatible equipment such as phones and music players.
Hearing aid advanced features
Variable programming – hearing aid programming that allows the user to adjust sound settings depending on the environment (e.g. at home versus in a busy restaurant).
Directional microphones – microphones that can focus on sound originating from a specific location while reducing background noise.
Telecoils – a coil installed inside of the hearing aid that enables it to connect to wireless signals originating from telephones, assistive listening devices, and hearing loops installed in public venues.
Noise reduction – functionality that helps the hearing aid to distinguish speech sounds from background noise, leading to the augmentation of speech and the inhibition of distracting noise.
Bluetooth technology – enables the hearing aid to connect wirelessly with several devices, including mobile phones, computers, audio players, and other compatible products.
Not sure which features you need, or which you could live without? Let us help you discover the best hearing aid for your unique requirements. Call us today!