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Evanston Audiology - Evanston, IL

Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you looking into purchasing hearing aids?

If so, it can feel overwhelming at first. There are a number of options out there, and the perplexing terminology doesn’t help.

That’s why we’re going to clarify the most common and significant terms, so when you talk with your hearing professional you’ll be prepared to find the ideal hearing aid for you.

Hearing loss and testing

High-frequency hearing loss – this is the most commonly encountered type of hearing loss. Patients with high-frequency hearing loss have the most difficulty hearing higher frequency sounds, such as the sounds of speech.

Sensorineural hearing loss – this form of hearing loss develops when there is damage to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most prevalent type 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 equivalent level of loss in both ears) or asymmetrical (different degrees of loss in each ear). Bilateral hearing loss is in most cases best treated with two hearing aids.

Audiogram – the diagram which provides a visual description of your hearing exam results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing consultant records the lowest decibel level you are able to hear at each frequency. If you necessitate 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 strength. Typical conversation registers at approximately 60 decibels, and long-term exposure to any sound more than 80 decibels could result in permanent 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 individual frequency.

Degree of hearing loss – Hearing loss is categorized as mild (26-40 dB loss), moderate (41-55), severe (71-90), or profound (91+).

Tinnitus – a chronic ringing or buzzing in the ears when no exterior sound is present. Frequently a signal of hearing damage 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 stylethe type of hearing aid characterized 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 contained inside of a case that is placed behind the ear, connected 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 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 within the ear canal. Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids are also obtainable that are nearly invisible when worn.

Hearing aid parts

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

Microphone – the hearing aid component that picks up external sound and converts the sound waves into an electrical signal.

Digital signal processor – a specialized microprocessor inside a hearing aid that can manipulate and enhance sound.

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

Speaker – the hearing aid part that supplies the enhanced sound to the ear.

Wireless antenna – available in specific hearing aids, permitting wireless connectivity to compatible devices such as smartphones and music players.

Hearing aid advanced features

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

Directional microphones – microphones that can center on sound originating from a specified location while reducing background noise.

Telecoils – a coil positioned inside of the hearing aid that allows it to connect 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 distinguish speech sounds from background noise, which results in the enhancement of speech and the inhibition of distracting noise.

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


Uncertain of which features you need, or which you could live without? Let us help you find the ideal hearing aid for your distinct needs. Call us today!

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