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Geneva Hearing Services - Geneva, IL

Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you looking into investing in hearing aids?

If so, it can feel overwhelming at first. There are countless 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 talk 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 form of hearing loss. Patients with high-frequency hearing loss have the greatest difficulties hearing higher frequency sounds, such as the sounds of speech.

Sensorineural hearing loss – this form of hearing loss comes about when there is damage to the nerve cells of the inner ear. This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss triggered by exposure to loud noise, aging, genetics, or other medical conditions.

Bilateral hearing loss – hearing loss in both ears, which could be symmetrical (the same degree of loss in both ears) or asymmetrical (varied degrees of loss in each ear). Bilateral hearing loss is in most cases 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 practitioner documents 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 sequence of high-frequency hearing loss.

Decibel (dB) – the unit used to measure sound level or intensity. Normal conversation registers at around 60 decibels, and continuous exposure to any sound above 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 individual frequency.

Degree of hearing loss – Hearing loss can be characterized 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. Normally 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 match each individual’s distinct hearing loss.

Hearing aid style – the type of hearing aid characterized by its size and location 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 components are contained 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 components are enclosed within a case that fits in the exterior part of the ear.

In the canal (ITC) hearing aids – the hearing aid components are enclosed in a case that fits within the ear canal. Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids are also obtainable that are virtually invisible when worn.

Hearing aid parts

Earmold – a piece of plastic, acrylic, or other pliable material that is formed 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 specialized microprocessor within the hearing aid that can manipulate and enhance sound.

Amplifier – the part 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 certain hearing aids, enabling wireless connectivity 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 congested restaurant).

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

Telecoils – a coil located inside of the hearing aid that allows it to hook up 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, resulting in the enhancement of speech and the inhibition of distracting noise.

Bluetooth technology – enables the hearing aid to connect wirelessly with several devices, such as smartphones, computers, MP3 players, and other compatible devices.


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

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