Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you considering purchasing hearing aids?

If so, it can seem 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 explain the most common and significant terms, so when you talk with your hearing professional you’ll be well prepared to pick out the best hearing aid for you.

Hearing loss and testing

High-frequency hearing loss – this is the most commonly encountered form of hearing loss. People with high-frequency hearing loss have the most difficulties hearing higher frequency sounds, like 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 triggered by being exposed to loud noise, the aging process, genetics, or other health problems.

Bilateral hearing loss – hearing loss in both ears, which may be symmetrical (the same degree of loss in both ears) or asymmetrical (different degrees of loss in each ear). Bilateral hearing loss is almost always best treated with two hearing aids.

Audiogram – the graph that provides a visual depiction of your hearing test results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing professional registers the lowest decibel level that you can hear at each frequency. If you require higher volumes to hear higher frequencies, your audiogram will show a sequence of high-frequency hearing loss.

Decibel (dB) – the unit used to measure sound level or intensity. Ordinary conversation registers at around 60 decibels, and long-term direct exposure to any sound above 80 decibels could cause permanent 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 of 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 frequency.

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

Tinnitus – a prolonged ringing or buzzing in the ears when no external sound is present. Typically a signal of hearing damage or loss.

Hearing aid styles

Digital hearing aid – hearing aids that include a digital microchip, used to custom-program the hearing aids to fit each person’s unique 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, 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 external part of the ear.

In the canal (ITC) hearing aids – the hearing aid parts 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 shaped to the contours of the patient’s ears, utilized for the fitting of hearing aids.

Microphone – the hearing aid component that picks up external 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 part of the hearing aid that boosts the volume of sound.

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

Wireless antenna – available in select hearing aids, enabling wireless connectivity to compatible devices such as phones and music players.

Hearing aid advanced features

Variable programming – hearing aid programming that allows the user to adjust 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 reducing background noise.

Telecoils – a coil installed within 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 helps the hearing aid to differentiate speech sounds from background noise, resulting in the augmentation of speech and the inhibition of disruptive noise.

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


Uncertain of which features you need, or which you could live without? Let us help you discover the ideal hearing aid for your distinct needs. Give us a call today!