Are you thinking about purchasing hearing aids?
If the answer is yes, it can feel intimidating at first. There are a lot of choices available, and the confusing 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 ideal hearing aid for you.
Hearing loss and testing
High-frequency hearing loss – this is the most common type of hearing loss. Individuals with high-frequency hearing loss have the most difficulty hearing higher frequency sounds, like 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 prevalent form of permanent hearing loss caused by direct exposure to loud noise, the aging process, 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 (varied degrees of loss in each ear). Bilateral hearing loss is as a rule best treated with two hearing aids.
Audiogram – the chart that provides a visual representation of your hearing testing results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing practitioner records 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 strength. Typical conversation registers at around 60 decibels, and continuous direct exposure to any sound in excess of 80 decibels could cause irreversible 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 heard at each frequency.
Degree of hearing loss – Hearing loss is generally 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 sign of hearing injury or loss.
Hearing aid styles
Digital hearing aid – hearing aids that include a digital microchip, used to custom-program the hearing aids to accommodate each person’s distinct hearing loss.
Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid characterized by its size and position in relation to the ear. Main styles include behind-the-ear, in-the-ear, and in-the-canal.
Behind the ear (BTE) hearing aids – the majority of hearing aid parts 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 contained inside of a case that fits in the external part of the ear.
In the canal (ITC) hearing aids – the hearing aid components are enclosed 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 shaped to the curves of the individual’s ears, used for the fitting of hearing aids.
Microphone – the hearing aid part that picks up external 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 part of the hearing aid that boosts the volume of sound.
Speaker – the hearing aid part that delivers the enhanced sound to the ear.
Wireless antenna – available in certain hearing aids, enabling wireless connection to compatible equipment such as smartphones and music players.
Hearing aid advanced features
Variable programming – hearing aid programming that permits the individual to adjust sound settings depending on the environment (e.g. at home versus in a crowded restaurant).
Directional microphones – microphones that can focus on sound originating from a specified location while minimizing background noise.
Telecoils – a coil located within 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, leading to the augmentation of speech and the inhibition of distracting noise.
Bluetooth technology – permits the hearing aid to communicate wirelessly with a number of 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 find the ideal hearing aid for your unique needs. Give us a call today!