Jargon Busting Glossary
Please also see our FAQ section.
Acute otitis media
Acute otitis media, or glue ear, is a short-term ear infection that often comes on suddenly. Symptoms include a hearing loss caused by build-up of fluid in the middle ear, which can get infected.
Age Related Hearing Loss
Hearing loss that is caused by advancing years rather than by illness, medication or exposure to loud noise or trauma. About 60% of those with hearing loss in the UK are over retirement age.
Analogue hearing aids
Analogue hearing convert sounds into small electrical signals which are then amplified (made louder) and fed into your ear via an earmould. They have been completely replaced by digital hearing aids.
An audiogram is a chart that represents a person’s hearing ability, determined by a hearing test. Audiologists use audiograms to help judge what degree of hearing loss a person has, and what type of help they need.
An audiologist specialises in identifying and assessing hearing and balance problems. They recommend and provide appropriate support, products and treatments to help alleviate the effects of hearing loss. Our audiologists are members of BSHAA [British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists] and registered with the HCPC [Health and Care Professions Council].
The auditory nerve (also known as the cochlear or acoustic nerve) carries sound signals from the inner ear to the brain.
Auditory processing disorder
A disorder that affects the processing of auditory information within the brain. Typically, the patient has normal functions of the outer, middle and inner ear but are unable to process sounds in the same way that others do. Therefore, having difficulties recognising and interpreting sounds, especially speech.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids
BTE aids have a mould that fits inside the ear, while the rest of the aid sits behind the ear. Typically, we dispense BTE hearing aids as high-power aids for people with severe or profound hearing losses.
Bone conduction hearing aids
Bone conduction hearing aids deliver sound through the skull via vibrations. This is useful for someone with a conductive hearing loss or a malformation of the outer ear.
Brain stem implants
Brain stem implants are inserted surgically and can improve hearing in patients with neural hearing loss, which can be caused by cancer of the auditory (hearing) nerve or an auditory nerve that failed to develop properly. Implants convert sound into electrical impulses that stimulate the brain directly, bypassing the auditory nerve.
British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists is the professional body for hearing aid dispensers registered with the HCPC.
A condition of the middle ear or ear canal that generally starts with a hole in the eardrum, usually in the upper part of the drum. This can become infected and form a mass – called a cholesteatoma. If left untreated this can grow causing damage and may lead to hearing loss, tinnitus and sometimes balance problems. Rarely, very severe cases can cause meningitis or brain infections.
Chronic otitis media
Chronic otitis media is a long lasting or recurring infection in the middle ear. Symptoms are a build-up of fluid in the middle ear.
The cochlea is a fluid filled chamber in the inner ear which converts sound vibrations to electrical impulses in the auditory nerve. Sound waves cause the fluid in the cochlea to vibrate. Tiny sensory hair cells pick up this movement and trigger the signal in the nerve which passes the signal to the brain to be interpreted as sound.
A cochlear implant consists of a microphone and a transmitter outside the head, which send signals to a receiver under the skin which is connected to electrodes implanted in the cochlea. Sound causes tiny electric currents which stimulate the auditory nerve and in turn the impulses are passed to the brain to be interpreted as sound. This allows a good level of hearing for people whose hearing loss is considerable and struggle to hear with conventional hearing aids.
Completely-in-the ear canal (CIC) hearing aids
CICs are very small hearing aids sitting completely in the ear canal. They can be an excellent solution for people who want a less visible hearing aid. They may not be suitable for all hearing levels or shapes of ear canal.
Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss is when sound cannot pass freely through the outer or middle ear. This can be caused by a blockage in the outer or middle ear from an infection or a build-up of wax. If the cause is wax this can be removed by a trained professional.
Digital hearing aid
Digital hearing aids take sound signals and convert this into a code. The code is manipulated by a tiny computer in the hearing aid, so enabling digital hearing aids to be set to an individual’s hearing needs.
Most hearing aids have multiple microphones to help detect the direction of a sound source. This helps the hearing aid to focus more on sounds coming from the front of the person, rather than the side or behind. The microphones make it easier to follow conversations in noisy places.
RITE hearing aids have soft squashy domes on the end. These fit snuggly inside your ear and hold the speaker in place in your ear. The sound comes out of the speaker and through the dome into your ear. Domes are usually changed every 1-3 months depending on your aid. We will supply the correct type and size for you.
Ear Nose and Throat department in the NHS or a private hospital where Ear Nose and Throat Consultants work.
Like any other part of the body, it is possible to contract a fungal infection in your outer ear. This can be seen with otoscopy and treated with anti-fungal medication from the GP.
Hair cells are sensory cells in the cochlea (inner ear) that convert sound vibrations into electrical signals that then travel along the auditory nerve to the brain. Loss of, or damage to hair cells results in permanent hearing loss.
Heath and Care Professions Council is the professional body that all hearing aid dispensers must register with. As well as holding a register of all hearing aid dispensers (amongst other health professions) they set standards and investigate any complaints.
We use the term ‘hearing loss’ in a general way to cover any impairment in hearing, from mild hearing loss (unable to hear sounds below 25dB) to profound deafness (unable to hear sounds below 95dB).
Hyperacusis is an abnormal discomfort caused by sounds that are normally tolerable. Many people who experience hyperacusis will not have hearing loss, but it is commonly linked with other hearing problems such as tinnitus or Meniérès Disease.
An impression is a cast of the ear. This is made with a soft putty that is put into the ear, the putty sets hard and is removed from the ear leaving an impression of the ear. This can be used to make ear moulds, custom made ITE or CIC hearing aids, or hearing protection and swim plugs.
In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids
ITE aids are small enough to fit inside the ear, although not as small as CIC aids. An impression or cast of the ear is sent to the manufacturer so the hearing aid is made specifically to the size and shape of the individual’s ear.
The use of a controlled jet of water to wash wax out of ears if the wax has built up causing a blockage. This method has replaced the old-fashioned syringing.
Also known as an induction loop, a loop system is an assistive listening device that can be used with some hearing aids in places where it might be difficult to hear. Loop systems are commonly available in public places such as churches, post offices and theatres. Not all hearing aids have a loop function, but if it has, hearing aid users have to switch to the loop or telecoil setting on their hearing aid in order to hear the sound signal being transmitted via the loop system.
Meniérè’s disease is a rare condition that affects the inner ear. It causes vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss and a feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear. Symptoms usually appear without warning and often last for two to three hours.
Using a suction machine with a fine tip to carefully remove excess wax in the outer ear canal that has caused a blockage in the ear.
Noise-induced hearing loss
Noise-induced hearing loss is when we are exposed to sounds that are too loud, or loud sounds that last a long time. Sensitive hair cells in the cochlea (inner ear) are damaged. This causes noise-induced hearing loss. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot repair meaning this hearing loss is permanent.
A system within hearing aids that works to reduce some kinds of background noise automatically so that listening is more comfortable.
Open ear fitting
Conventional ear moulds are not required for open ear fitting. Instead, the hearing aid sits behind the ear and a small tube or wire carries the sound into the ear and is held in place by a small squashy tip. These small earpieces can give a more natural sound and do not feel as ‘full’ in the ear as conventional ear moulds.
An infection or inflammation of the middle ear, usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
A condition which results in the abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear. It can cause conductive hearing loss. The excess bone prevents the ossicles [the three bones] in the middle ear from moving freely. Hearing loss of this type causes sounds to become quieter rather becoming distorted.
When a health professional looks in your ear with an otoscope a small device that illuminates and magnifies. This allows the health professional to visually inspect the health and condition of the outer ear, the ear canal and the ear drum.
Drugs that may be damaging to the ear or hearing are known as ototoxic. Some ototoxic drugs may make tinnitus and/or hearing temporarily worse and some can cause permanent damage.
A hole or tear in the eardrum. It will usually heal by itself, but it can sometimes remain open for many years – chronic perforation.
Most people find their hearing gets worse as they get older – this is called age-related hearing loss or presbycusis.
Pure tone audiogram
Also referred to as an audiogram. A graphical representation of your hearing levels as determined by a hearing test (pure tone audiometry)
Real ear measurement
Real ear measurement is a method used by an audiologist to make sure that hearing aids are set up the right way for an individual by measuring the sound levels in ear canals.
Receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) hearing aids
RITE aids have the speaker part sitting inside the ear within the squashy dome. Unlike ITE or CIC aids, they do have a part that sits behind the ear. There are different RITE hearing aids for different levels of hearing loss. This is the most common type of hearing aid that we dispense.
The use of water in a large syringe to clear wax out of the ear. This method has been replaced with a more up to date and controlled method of wax removal with warm water called irrigation.
A telecoil is a small coil of wire within a hearing aid that enables the hearing aid user to make use of a loop system. This must be activated by the audiologist initially and is not an option only on CIC hearing aids. It can be of use to people who regularly attend a place of worship or the theatre.
Tinnitus is experienced as noise in the ears or head. The sound is normally described as ringing, whistling or buzzing however it can be one or many sounds at the same time.
Pulsatile tinnitus is normally described as rhythmic noise that beats in time with your pulse. This type of tinnitus usually has a specific cause, such as high blood pressure or glue ear.
Tympanometry / Tympanogram
Tympanometry is a test that can show us how well the middle ear is functioning. It produces a graph or tympanogram that we can interpret to identify any issues with the middle ear.
Hearing aids have a wax guard at the opening where sound comes out of the aid. This traps wax and prevents it from getting inside the hearing aids. These need to be changed on a regular basis by the hearing aid user.