Are you thinking of investing in hearing aids?
If the answer is yes, it can seem intimidating at first. There are several choices 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 prevalent type of hearing loss. People with high-frequency hearing loss have the greatest difficulty 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 common type 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 same level of loss in both ears) or asymmetrical (varied levels of loss in each ear). Bilateral hearing loss is as a rule best treated with two hearing aids.
Audiogram – the chart which provides a visual depiction of your hearing test results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing specialist 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 used to measure sound level or strength. Typical conversation registers at about 60 decibels, and long-term direct exposure to any sound over 80 decibels could result in permanent hearing loss. Since 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 detected at each individual frequency.
Degree of hearing loss – Hearing loss is generally categorized as mild (26-40 dB loss), moderate (41-55), severe (71-90), or profound (91+).
Tinnitus – a constant ringing or buzzing in the ears when no exterior sound is present. Frequently a sign of hearing damage or loss.
Hearing aid styles
Digital hearing aid – hearing aids that incorporate 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 specified 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 enclosed inside of 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 inside of a case that fits in the outside part of the ear.
In the canal (ITC) hearing aids – the hearing aid components 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, utilized for the fitting of hearing aids.
Microphone – the hearing aid component that picks up environmental sound and converts the sound waves into an electrical signal.
Digital signal processor – a special microprocessor inside of a hearing aid that can manipulate and enhance sound.
Amplifier – the part of the hearing aid that boosts the volume of sound.
Speaker – the hearing aid component that supplies the enhanced sound to the ear.
Wireless antenna – available in specific hearing aids, allowing for wireless connection to compatible devices such as smartphones and music players.
Hearing aid advanced features
Variable programming – hearing aid programming that permits the individual to change 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 positioned inside of the hearing aid that allows it to hook up 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 distinguish speech sounds from background noise, resulting in the enhancement of speech and the inhibition of disruptive noise.
Bluetooth technology – enables the hearing aid to connect wirelessly with a number of devices, including cell phones, computers, audio players, and other compatible products.
Uncertain of which features you need, or which you could live without? Let us help you discover the best hearing aid for your distinct requirements. Give us a call today!