Are you looking into purchasing hearing aids?
If the answer is yes, it can feel overwhelming at first. There are numerous options out there, and the obscure terminology doesn’t help.
That’s why we’re going to describe the most common and important terms, so when you work with your hearing professional you’ll be prepared to pick out the best hearing aid for you.
Hearing loss and testing
High-frequency hearing loss – this is the most commonly encountered kind 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 type of hearing loss comes about when there is damage to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most common kind of permanent hearing loss triggered by direct exposure to loud noise, the aging process, genetics, or other medical conditions.
Bilateral hearing loss – hearing loss in both ears, which could be symmetrical (the equivalent level of loss in both ears) or asymmetrical (different levels of loss in each ear). Bilateral hearing loss is ordinarily best treated with two hearing aids.
Audiogram – the chart that provides a visual depiction of your hearing testing results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing professional documents 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 strength. Ordinary conversation registers at around 60 decibels, and sustained direct exposure to any sound in excess of 80 decibels could cause 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 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 generally 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 signal of hearing injury or loss.
Hearing aid styles
Digital hearing aid – hearing aids that incorporate a digital microchip, used to custom-program the hearing aids to complement each individual’s distinct hearing loss.
Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid characterized by its size and position relative 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 contained inside of a case that is placed 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 inside of 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 virtually invisible when worn.
Hearing aid parts
Earmold – a piece of plastic, acrylic, or other soft material that is shaped to the curves of the individual’s ears, used for the fitting of hearing aids.
Microphone – the hearing aid part that picks up sound in the environment and converts the sound waves into an electrical signal.
Digital signal processor – a special microprocessor within the 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 component that delivers the enhanced sound to the ear.
Wireless antenna – available in specific hearing aids, enabling wireless connection to compatible gadgets such as smartphones and music players.
Hearing aid advanced features
Variable programming – hearing aid programming that permits the individual to adjust sound settings according to the environment (e.g. at home versus in a crowded restaurant).
Directional microphones – microphones that can focus on sound originating from a specific location while minimizing background noise.
Telecoils – a coil located within the hearing aid that allows it to connect to 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, resulting in the enhancement of speech and the suppression of distracting noise.
Bluetooth technology – permits the hearing aid to connect wirelessly with a variety of devices, including smartphones, 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 distinct needs. Give us a call today!