HEARING TIPS

Key Hearing Aid Terms Defined

Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you contemplating investing in hearing aids?

If the answer is yes, it can feel intimidating at first. There are a lot of options available, and the perplexing 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 pick out the ideal 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 greatest difficulties hearing higher frequency sounds, such as the sounds of speech.

Sensorineural hearing loss – this type of hearing loss comes about when there is injury to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most common form of permanent hearing loss triggered by exposure to loud noise, aging, genetics, or other health problems.

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

Audiogram – the chart that provides a visual representation of your hearing test results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing practitioner 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 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 prolonged exposure to any sound in excess of 80 decibels could result in 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. 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 detected at each frequency.

Degree of hearing loss – Hearing loss is generally characterized 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. Often an indication of hearing injury or loss.

Hearing aid styles

Digital hearing aid – hearing aids that include a digital microchip, utilized to custom-program the hearing aids to accommodate each individual’s distinct 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 enclosed within a case that fits 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 parts are contained in a case that fits inside of the ear canal. Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids are also obtainable that are practically invisible when worn.

Hearing aid parts

Earmold – a piece of plastic, acrylic, or other soft material that is formed to the contours of the individual’s ears, used for the fitting of hearing aids.

Microphone – the hearing aid part 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 adjust and enhance sound.

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

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

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

Hearing aid advanced features

Variable programminghearing aid programming that permits 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 specified location while minimizing background noise.

Telecoils – a coil situated 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 helps the hearing aid to distinguish speech sounds from background noise, resulting in the augmentation of speech and the suppression of distracting noise.

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


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