Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you planning on purchasing hearing aids?

If so, it can feel overwhelming at first. There are numerous options available, 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 most difficulties 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 prevalent type of permanent hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise, aging, genetics, or other medical conditions.

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

Audiogram – the chart that provides a visual representation of your hearing assessment results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing practitioner captures the lowest decibel level you are able to 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 intensity. Ordinary conversation registers at approximately 60 decibels, and prolonged direct exposure to any sound more than 80 decibels could cause permanent hearing loss. Seeing as the scale is logarithmic, an increase of 6-10 decibels doubles the volume of the sound.

Frequency – represents pitch as measured in hertz. Imagine 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 can be categorized 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 exterior sound is present. Normally 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 fit 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. 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 fits 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 contained within a case that fits in the outer part of the ear.

In the canal (ITC) hearing aids – the hearing aid parts 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, used 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 special microprocessor inside of a hearing aid that can adjust and enhance sound.

Amplifier – the part of the hearing aid that increases the volume of sound.

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

Wireless antenna – available in select hearing aids, allowing for wireless connection to compatible equipment such as smartphones and music players.

Hearing aid advanced features

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

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

Telecoils – a coil situated inside of the hearing aid that enables 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, which results in the augmentation of speech and the inhibition of distracting noise.

Bluetooth technology – allows the hearing aid to connect wirelessly with a number of devices, such as mobile phones, 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 unique requirements. Give us a call today!