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Otoscope and hearing aid on audiogram printout

Are you contemplating investing in hearing aids?

If the answer is yes, it can seem overwhelming at first. There are numerous choices out there, and the perplexing terminology doesn’t help.

That’s why we’re going to make clear the most common and important terms, so when you work 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, like 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 prevalent kind of permanent hearing loss brought on by exposure to loud noise, aging, genetics, or other health problems.

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 as a rule best treated with two hearing aids.

Audiogram – the chart which provides a visual description of your hearing test results. The vertical axis measures decibels (volume) and the horizontal axis measures frequencies (pitch). The hearing consultant registers 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 around 60 decibels, and prolonged direct exposure to any sound over 80 decibels could result in irreversible hearing loss. Seeing as 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 chronic ringing or buzzing in the ears when no exterior sound is present. Often a signal 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 match 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 components are enclosed inside of a case that fits 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 inside of 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 inside of the ear canal. Completely-in-the-canal (CIC) hearing aids are also available that are nearly invisible when worn.

Hearing aid parts

Earmold – a piece of plastic, acrylic, or other soft 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 sound in the environment and converts the sound waves into an electrical signal.

Digital signal processor – a specialized microprocessor inside of 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 component that delivers the enhanced sound to the ear.

Wireless antenna – available in specific hearing aids, enabling wireless connection to compatible equipment such as phones and music players.

Hearing aid advanced features

Variable programming – hearing aid programming that permits the user 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 coming from a specific location while minimizing background noise.

Telecoils – a coil installed within the hearing aid that enables 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, which results in the enhancement of speech and the suppression of distracting noise.

Bluetooth technology – permits the hearing aid to communicate wirelessly with a variety of devices, such as smartphones, 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 best hearing aid for your unique needs. Call us today!

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