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Get to Know These 18 Hearing Terms

When learning more about hearing health, you are likely to come across some new and unfamiliar terminology. For example, do you know what a cochlear implant is? What about an otolaryngologist? Some of the words may sound complicated, but don’t let this intimidate you. It’s important to stay informed and prepared when it comes to topics concerning your health. Read on to learn more about these 18 key hearing terms, and you’ll be a hearing healthcare expert!

Audiogram sample There are a number of hearing tests implemented to determine one’s hearing range, and an audiogram is a way to document the results. An audiogram is a graph or a chart that shows how well you can hear sounds at certain frequencies. Because you have two ears, you will also have two audiograms.

An audiologist is a healthcare professional who specializes in hearing health and balance issues. In addition to performing hearing evaluations, they work with their patients to diagnose hearing-related conditions, discuss preventative measures, and find the best solutions for their needs.

Auditory Processing Disorder
Someone with an auditory processing disorder doesn’t have trouble hearing sounds, but sounds can be difficult for them to process. They may find it difficult to concentrate on speech in the presence of background noise, follow verbal directions, retain verbal information, and distinguish between sounds and where they are coming from.

Binaural is a term used to describe both ears or sound sources for both ears. While single-sided hearing loss can occur, the majority of people with hearing loss experience it in both ears. If you see a hearing device is binaural, it means it was designed to provide sound to both ears.

Cochlear Implant
With both internal and external components, a cochlear implant is sometimes a great option for those whose hearing loss can’t be properly treated with hearing aids. This implant is appropriate when the individual’s hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells in the cochlea. These hair cells allow sound to reach the auditory nerve, but they can’t do this when they are damaged. The cochlear implant bypasses this issue by directly stimulating the auditory nerve. It is important to know that a cochlear implant cannot completely restore hearing.

Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound cannot reach the inner ear. For the listener, this makes it difficult to hear sounds at lower decibel levels. This can sometimes be caused by circumstances such as a perforated eardrum, but it is often due to an obstruction such as earwax or fluid in the ear. Because of this, treatment for conductive hearing loss can be as simple as your doctor removing the obstruction; however, hearing aids may also be recommended if this is not effective.

Decibel (dB)
A decibel (dB) is a unit of measurement for sound. It is important that sound is measured because once it reaches 85 dBs, you need to limit your exposure to it and break out the earplugs! This level of noise can damage the hair cells in your inner ear and cause hearing loss.
It can be difficult to determine what sounds reach dangerous levels without a decibel meter. This infographic can help you determine what sources of sound can be too loud.

Hearing Aid
R-L92 Hearing Aid It is important to distinguish between a hearing aid and other hearing devices, such as a Personal Sound Amplification Device (PSAP). A hearing aid does more than simply amplify sound, and it often requires a visit to a hearing healthcare professional. There are many different types and styles of hearing aids with varying capabilities. As technology advances, hearing aids have a variety of functions that allow the wearer to experience more natural and effortless listening.

Hearing Protection
To avoid damage to your hearing, protection is absolutely necessary when you are exposed to high decibel levels. You’ll often find hearing protection in the form of earplugs or earmuffs with foam insulation, and these different types are suitable for different activities. Some earplugs may lower sound exposure by 20 dB, which is great for mowing the lawn, but may not be ideal for when you’re setting off fireworks! There are even earplugs designed specifically for musicians and concert goers that lower the decibel level without comprising the quality of the sound.

Hearing Screening
Like an eye exam or teeth cleaning, a hearing screening is something that should be done regularly. During a typical screening, you’ll be asked to listen to a series of tones and indicate which ones you can hear. This screening is just an initial test that decides if you need further evaluation.

Hearing Evaluation
Man Receiving Hearing Evaluation If your hearing screening indicates that you may having hearing loss, you should undergo a hearing evaluation. This evaluation is comprised of more comprehensive tests that help define whether or not you have a hearing loss, if it’s present in both ears, what is causing it, the severity, and the treatment options moving forward.

A neckloop may be worn by people who need additional amplification. For people with telecoil hearing aids, it can be used with sound sources such as receivers, radios, televisions, gaming systems, and more. The loop works by creating a magnetic signal that is picked up by the telecoil and made louder by the hearing aid.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss can occur following exposure to high decibel levels over time or just once. For example, you could experience noise-induced hearing loss after frequently listening to loud music through your earphones for 25 years, or you could attend a single concert that irreparably damages your hearing.

Otolaryngologists (often referred to as ENT physicians) identify, manage, and treat conditions of the ears, nose, and throat. They are proficient in ear conditions and hearing loss, and can perform surgery if it becomes necessary.

Personal Sound Amplification Product (PSAP)
While a Personal Sound Amplification Product (PSAP) amplifies sounds and looks similar to a hearing aid, it is not meant to treat hearing loss and it is not an equal substitute. You don’t need to visit a hearing healthcare specialist in order to receive one, which means you are likely not receiving the specialized technology you need to treat your unique hearing condition. These devices can also be dangerous and even further damage your hearing! Make sure to see a professional if you need hearing technology!

Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when damage is done to the inner ear and/or the nerve pathways leading to the brain. This can be caused by a number of factors including exposure to loud noise, illness, aging, head trauma, and more. While hearing aids can treat sensorineural hearing loss, there is no cure.

Telecoil Identification

Some hearing aids come equipped with a telecoil (t-coil), which is a small wire that receives magnetic signals that present as sounds. Certain technology (like a neckloop or an induction loop) will generate this signal for the telecoil to pick up.

Tinnitus can present itself in a number of ways, but it is usually in the form of a ringing, whistling, or buzzing sound in one or both ears. It is important to know that tinnitus isn’t a disease, but a symptom—usually of hearing damage. There is no known cure for tinnitus, but it can sometimes be treated with hearing aids or technology that uses tinnitus-cancelling noise.

These are just a few terms you may come across when you research and address hearing-related issues. Now that you know a little more about your hearing health, you can take your newfound knowledge and impress your hearing healthcare provider at your next visit!

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