Center For Better Hearing - Glens Falls, NY

Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you considering purchasing hearing aids?

If so, it can feel intimidating at first. There are a number of choices available, and the confusing terminology doesn’t help.

That’s why we’re going to clarify the most common and significant terms, so when you work with your hearing professional you’ll be well 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. 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 occurs when there is damage to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most common kind of permanent hearing loss triggered by being exposed to loud noise, the aging process, genetics, or other health issues.

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

Audiogram – the chart that provides a visual representation of your hearing exam 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 pattern of high-frequency hearing loss.

Decibel (dB) – the unit utilized to measure sound level or intensity. Normal conversation registers at approximately 60 decibels, and long-term exposure to any sound in excess of 80 decibels could cause irreversible 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. Picture 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 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. Usually a sign of hearing damage or loss.

Hearing aid styles

Digital hearing aidhearing aids that incorporate a digital microchip, utilized to custom-program the hearing aids to complement each person’s distinct hearing loss.

Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid defined by its size and position relative to the ear. Main 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 within 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 parts are enclosed within a case that fits in the outer part of the ear.

In the canal (ITC) hearing aids – the hearing aid parts are enclosed 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 pliable material that is shaped to the contours of the individual’s ears, utilized for the fitting of hearing aids.

Microphone – the hearing aid component that picks up sound in the environment 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 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 specific hearing aids, enabling wireless connectivity to compatible gadgets such as smartphones and music players.

Hearing aid advanced features

Variable programming – hearing aid programming that enables the individual to adjust sound settings depending on the environment (e.g. at home versus in a chaotic restaurant).

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

Telecoils – a coil placed inside of 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 differentiate speech sounds from background noise, which results in the augmentation of speech and the inhibition of distracting noise.

Bluetooth technology – enables the hearing aid to communicate wirelessly with several devices, including mobile phones, computers, MP3 players, and other compatible products.


Not sure 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!

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