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you ever felt that a doctor or another health professional
was speaking a different language? As a parent of a baby
who has been newly identified with hearing loss, medical
and audiology terms may be unfamiliar territory. This section
includes many of the terms and vocabulary that professionals
use when they talk about hearing, causes of hearing loss
and hearing aid devices. These terms are explained to help
you as a parent communicate more easily with the professionals
involved in your child's care.
a whistling sound produced by a hearing aid. The amplified
signal generated by the receiver of the hearing aid leaks
outside, enters the microphone, and then is re-amplified.
a loss of hearing that occurs or develops some time during
the lifespan but is not present at birth.
the process by which sound is sent (conducted) to the inner
ear through the external ear canal and middle ear. Air-conduction
testing is performed by sending sounds to the ear through
an earphone or loudspeaker.
a difference between hearing responses for earphone or loudspeaker
(air conduction) versus bone vibrator (bone-conduction)
stimulation. A gap or difference between air-conduction
and bone-conduction responses indicates conductive hearing
loss due to problems in the middle ear.
Disabilities Act (ADA): (top)
signed into law in 1990, this is a "civil rights act"
for persons with disabilities. The ADA requires public services
and buildings to make reasonable accommodations to allow
access to persons with disabilities, including hearing loss.
Language (ASL): (top)
a manual language with its own word order and grammar, used
primarily by people who are deaf.
an electronic device for increasing the strength or gain
of an electrical signal.
Device (ALD): (top)
devices, other than hearing aids, that improve listening
for individuals with hearing loss. Some systems improve
hearing in noisy situations by positioning the microphone
closer to the sound source, or improve the quality of amplified
speech or music. Includes FM systems, infrared systems,
and induction loop systems.
an ear malformation in which there is an absence of the
external ear canal, usually with abnormalities of the outer
ear, and/or middle ear space.
a graphic representation of hearing loss, showing the amount
of hearing loss (in decibels or dB ) at different frequencies
(250 - 8000 Hertz or Hz).
a health care professional who is trained to evaluate hearing
loss and related disorders, including balance (vestibular)
disorders and tinnitus, and to rehabilitate individuals
with hearing loss and related disorders. An audiologist
uses a variety of tests and procedures to assess hearing
and balance function and to fit and dispense hearing aids
and other assistive devices. The minimum academic degree
is a Master's. State licensure is required to practice audiology
in most states.
the study of hearing; the profession is concerned with measurement
and rehabilitation of auditory and communication problems.
a device for presenting precisely measured tones of specific
frequencies (or speech and recorded signals) and intensity
levels in order to obtain an audiogram.
Response (ABR) test: (top)
a test that can be used to assess auditory function in infants
and young children using electrodes on the head to record
electrical activity from the hearing nerve. Other terms
are: Brainstem Evoked Response (BSER), Brainstem Auditory
Evoked Potential (BAEP), and Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response
a term that describes a pattern of abnormal findings for
a number of audiometric measures, e.g., auditory brain stem
response (ABR), pure-tone and speech audiometry, and/or
acoustic reflexes, yet normal findings for otoacoustic emissions
(OAE). The most common pattern is the absence of an ABR
with normal OAE.
the cranial nerve (VIII) that carries nerve impulses from
the inner ear to the brain.
listening to environmental sounds, music and speech to practice
recognizing and understanding what has been heard.
specialized training for people with hearing loss to help
them learn spoken communication skills through speechreading
and auditory training.
the biological system that enables individuals to know where
their bodies are in the environment and to maintain a desired
position. Normal balance depends on information from the
labyrinth or vestibular system in the inner ear and from
other senses such as sight and touch.
a disruption in the labyrinth, the inner ear organ that
controls the balance system, which allows individuals to
know where their bodies are in the environment. The labyrinth
works with other systems in the body, such as the visual
and skeletal systems, to maintain posture.
Audiometry (BOA): (top)
a pediatric audiometric procedure in which behavioral responses
to sounds (e.g., eye opening, head turning) are detected
by an observer. This procedure has been shown to be unreliable
and affected by observer bias. It has been replaced by newer
test methods (see Auditory Brainstem Response, Visual Reinforcement
Hearing Loss: (top)
a hearing loss in both ears.
the transmission of sound (mechanical vibrations) through
the bones of the skull to the inner ear. Bone conduction
testing is completed using a bone oscillator (vibrator)
that is placed on the mastoid bone behind the ear or on
Hearing Aid: (top)
a hearing aid in which the amplified signal directly stimulates
the inner ear via a bone vibrator placed on the mastoid
bone behind the ear. This type of hearing aid typically
is used for individuals with atresia or chronic ear drainage.
a text display of spoken words, presented on a television
or a movie screen that allows a deaf or hard-of-hearing
viewer to follow the dialogue and the action of a program
Processing Disorder (CAPD): (top)
a language disorder that involves the perception and processing
of information that has been heard. Children with CAPD have
problems following spoken instructions and usually show
other language-learning problems, even though the inner
ear is functioning normally.
a common medication used to induce sleep, sometimes used
during ABR testing with children.
also called the "inner ear." A snail-shaped structure
that contains the sensory organ of hearing and changes sound
vibrations to nerve impulses. The impulses are carried to
the brain along the VIII nerve, or auditory nerve.
a medical device that is surgically implanted and bypasses
damaged inner ear structures and directly stimulates the
auditory nerve, helping individuals who have severe to profound
hearing loss to interpret sounds and speech.
Audiometry (CPA): (top)
a type of hearing test in which the audiologist teaches
the child to respond when a sound is heard by playing some
type of game. For example, the child puts a peg in a hole
or a block in a bucket every time a sound is heard.
Hearing Loss: (top)
a loss of sensitivity to sound, resulting from an abnormality
or blockage of the outer ear or the middle ear. The most
common cause of conductive hearing loss is middle ear fluid
or infection. Other causes include wax buildup in the ear
canal, a hole in the eardrum, or damage to the tiny bones
of the middle ear.
Hearing Loss: (top)
a hearing loss that is present from birth and which may
or may not be hereditary.
one group of herpes viruses that infects humans and can
cause a variety of symptoms, including deafness or hearing
impairment. Infection with the virus may be before, at or
a term used to describe persons who have a hearing loss
greater than 90 dB HL. It also may be used to refer to those
who consider themselves part of the Deaf community or culture
and choose to communicate using American Sign Language instead
of spoken communication.
the unit that measures the intensity of sound.
the capability of connecting a sound source, such as a TV
or tape recorder, directly into a hearing aid. Also refers
to the connection of an FM auditory trainer directly into
a hearing aid.
a physical unsteadiness, imbalance, and lightheadedness
associated with balance disorders. See vertigo.
Desired Sensation Level; a hearing aid fitting method designed
specifically for children.
the difference between the softest sounds one can hear and
the loudest sound tolerated.
the passageway from the outer ear to the eardrum.
also called the tympanic membrane; the eardrum separates
the outer ear from the middle ear and is important in conducting
sound to the middle ear and inner ear.
the presence and growth of bacteria or viruses in the ear.
a custom-made mold, used with a behind-the-ear hearing aid,
which delivers amplified sounds into the ear.
a device for presenting sounds to the ear. Earphones may
fit over the external ear or fit into the ear canal.
Ear Wax (cerumen):
a normal secretion from glands in the outer ear that keeps
the skin of the ear dry and protected from infection.
an audiologist with special training and experience to provide
auditory rehabilitation services to children in school settings.
a test of vestibular function that uses cool and warm water
or air to stimulate the vestibular system of each ear.
ear, nose, and throat.
a small passageway from the back of the throat to the middle
ear that allows air into the middle ear.
the outer portion of the ear that is normally visible. Components
of the external or outer ear include the pinna and the external
the shrill whistling sound made when amplified sound from
the hearing aid receiver goes back into the microphone of
the hearing aid. Feedback can be caused by an earmold that
does not fit properly or a damaged hearing aid.
an assistive listening device that improves listening in
noise. Signals are transmitted from a talker to the listener
by FM radio waves.
the unit of measurement related to the pitch of a sound.
Frequency is expressed in Hz (Hertz) or cps (cycles per
second). The more cycles per second, the higher the pitch.
the difference in a person's responses between aided and
unaided threshold measures. Functional gain is less reliable
and valid than other methods of testing aided benefit.
an increase in the amplitude or energy of an electrical
signal with amplification. Gain is the difference between
the input signal and the output signal.
the hair-like structures in the inner ear that transform
the mechanical energy of sound waves into nerve impulses.
Hard of Hearing:
the term to describe those with mild to severe hearing loss.
Hearing Aid: (top)
an electronic device that brings amplified
sound to the ear. A hearing aid usually consists of a microphone,
amplifier, and receiver.
Hearing Aid Evaluation
the process of selecting an appropriate hearing aid. The
audiologist will evaluate different types of hearing aids
to determine which is best suited to a particular hearing
a disruption in the normal hearing process that may occur
in the outer, middle, inner ear or the nerves to the brain.
(or impairment): (top)
a problem with hearing that is characterized by decreased
sensitivity to sound in comparison to normal hearing. See
conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss.
Level (HTL): (top)
the faintest intensity level (in dB hearing level) that
a person can hear a sound of a particular test frequency.
A completely normal HTL is 0 dB. Also known as HL.
Hearing Impairment: (top)
hearing loss passed down through generations of a family.
cycles per second. Frequency is denoted in Hz.
Inner Ear: (top)
the part of the ear that contains both the organ
of hearing (the cochlea) and the organ of balance (the labyrinth).
the ability to determine the direction of a sound source.
of Speech (LTSS): (top)
the overall level and configuration of speech energy representing
typical conversations levels of speech.
a portion of the temporal bone located behind the external
ear. Bone-conduction stimulation often is applied to the
abnormal growth of the outer ear. Severity varies from minor
skin tags or differences in ear shape to complete absence
of the outer ear.
the part of the ear that includes the eardrum and three
tiny bones (ossicles) of the middle ear, ending at the round
window that leads to the inner ear.
a hearing loss with both conductive (middle ear pathology)
and sensory (cochlear or VIIIth-nerve pathology) components.
The audiogram shows a bone-conduction hearing deficit plus
a gap between earphone and bone-conduction responses.
hearing aids that have the ability to store different listening
programs for access by the user.
Hereditary Hearing Impairment: (top)
a hearing loss or deafness that is inherited and is not
associated with other inherited physical characteristics.
the chain of three tiny bones in the middle ear (malleus,
an inflammation of the outer part of the ear extending to
the auditory canal.
an inflammation of the middle ear caused by infection.
Otitis Media with
Effusion (OME): (top)
otitis media with fluid present in the middle ear.
low-intensity sounds produced by the inner ear that can
be measured with a sensitive microphone placed in the ear
a physician/surgeon who specializes in diseases of the ear,
nose, throat, head and neck.
a physician/surgeon who specializes in the treatment of
the branch of medicine dealing with the ear.
the external portion of the ear that collects sound waves
and directs them into the ear. The outer ear consists of
the pinna and the ear canal.
an individual who becomes deaf after having acquired language.
(PE) Tube: (top)
a tube that is inserted in the eardrum to equalize the pressure
between the middle ear and the ear canal and to permit drainage.
Also called a tympanostomy tube.
an individual who is either born deaf or who lost his or
her hearing early in childhood, before acquiring language.
a tiny microphone attached to a soft, small tube. The probe
microphone is placed in the ear canal and is used to measure
a variety of sounds during a hearing aid evaluation.
Difference RECD: (top)
the difference, in decibels and across frequencies, between
the response of a hearing aid measured in a real ear versus
a standard coupler. The RECD is a measure that allows the
audiologist to accurately specify the sound levels delivered
to the ears of infants and young children.
a test technique used to measure the sound levels in the
ear canal produced by a hearing aid. A probe microphone
is placed in the ear canal alongside the hearing aid.
the amount of measurable, usable hearing.
a hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear (cochlea)
and/or the hearing nerve.
a method of communication used primarily by people who are
deaf or hard of hearing in which hand movements, gestures,
and facial expressions convey grammatical structure and
the frequencies within the 500 to 4000 Hz region, which
are most important for hearing and understanding of speech.
Threshold (SAT): (top)
the lowest hearing level in dB at which a person can detect
the presence of a speech signal. Also known as the speech
detection threshold (SDT).
Threshold (SRT): (top)
the lowest hearing level in dB at which 50 percent of two-syllable
(spondee) words can be identified correctly. Also known
as the ST (speech threshold or spondee threshold).
a professional who evaluates and provides treatment for
speech, language, cognitive-communication, and swallowing
problems of children and adults. Speech and language delays
are frequently seen in children with hearing impairments.
Minimum academic degree is a Master's degree. State licensure
is required to practice speech-language pathology in many
the loss of hearing that occurs quickly due to
such causes as an explosion, a viral infection, or the use
of some drugs.
Hearing Impairment: (top)
a hearing loss that is accompanied by additional physical
characteristics (e.g., blindness, mental retardation or
involvement of other organs).
a wire coil contained within a hearing aid that
picks up magnetic energy available from telephones or other
assistive listening devices.
a device for severely or profoundly hearing-impaired persons
to send or receive written messages transmitted via telephone
the softest level at which a sound can be heard 50 percent
of the time. The term is used for both speech and pure tone
a sensation of ringing, roaring, or buzzing sound in the
ears or head. It is often associated with hearing impairment
and noise exposure.
a measure of tympanic membrane (eardrum) mobility.
See Pressure-Equalizing tube.
Hearing Loss: (top)
a hearing loss in one ear only.
A spinning sensation, sometimes occurring with nausea and/or
the system in the body that is responsible for maintaining
balance, posture, and the body's orientation in space. This
system also regulates body movement and keeps objects in
visual focus as the body moves.
a device for increasing or decreasing the gain or volume
of a hearing instrument.
Audiometry (VRA): (top)
a pediatric hearing test procedure in which the child's
responses to sound are reinforced with a visual event (e.g.,
a moving toy). This procedure is most appropriate for children
in the 6 month to 3 year age range.
Range Compression: (top)
a special type of hearing aid or amplification device that
compresses a wide range of sounds into a narrower range.
This makes soft sounds easier to hear and makes loud sounds
more comfortable for listening.