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Glossary of hearing terms

At Imperial Hearing, we go about our day talking in a hearing language. It come naturally to us, but actually we realised that it may not always sound clear to our customers.

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So, we have created an A-Z glossary of hearing terms to help translate some of the terminology we use. We have also included some obvious ones, just to keep everything in one place… .


Alerting Device Visual or tactile devices to alert a person who cannot hear to door knocks, telephone rings, fire alarms, etc.

Amplified Phone Phone equipped with volume control on the handset.

Assistive Listening Device (ALD)

Technical tool to assist people with hearing loss, with or without a hearing aid or cochlear implant. It brings the speaker’s voice directly to the ear. Helps to overcome the problems of distant and surrounding noise.


An audiologist is a hearing healthcare professional that specializes in identifying, diagnosing, and treating issues with the auditory and vestibular areas of the ear.

Auditory Nerve

Eighth cranial nerve that connects the inner ear to the brainstem.

Auditory Neuropathy

Hearing disorder in which sound enters the inner ear normally but is impaired when signals move from the inner ear to the brain.


Captioned Telephone

Text of the conversation is displayed on a monitor built into the phone so the person with hearing loss can follow the call. A special phone is required.

CART – Communication Access Realtime Translation

CART or Communication Access Realtime Translation is the verbatim, near instantaneous conversion of spoken language into text. A stenotype machine, notebook computer and realtime software is used to produce the text. The text is usually displayed either on a screen by a projector connected to the notebook computer, or on a notebook computer or computer monitor.

CIC hearing aids

Completely in the canal (CIC) hearing aids are the smallest types available. They fit further into the canal of your ear than ITC hearing aids and are barely visible. Each hearing aid is custom made to suit the contours and anatomy of your ear canal for a comfortable fit.

Cochlear Implant (CI)

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that is surgically implanted and worked by directly stimulating functioning auditory nerve fibres in the inner ear. Cochlear implants convert sound waves to electrical impulses and transmit them to the inner ear, providing people with severe to profound hearing loss the ability to hear sounds and potentially better understand speech without reading lips.

Conductive Hearing Loss

This problem occurs when the nerve is functioning correctly but the sound has trouble physically getting to it. A perforation could be to blame, or pressure build up in the middle ear. Sometimes a conductive hearing loss can be repaired with medical intervention, but that depends on the actual cause.


Decibel (dB)

Unit used to express the intensity of a sound wave in logarithmic ratios to the base of ten. Sounds of different frequencies need to be from 0-20 dBHL in intensity to be heard by normal ears. If more than 20 dB is needed, then further hearing evaluation would be recommended.


Describes people who usually have no useful residual hearing and who generally use sign language as their primary mode of communication. This group of people are culturally Deaf and use the uppercase “D” when writing the term. However, people who are audiologically deaf (using a lowercase “d”) generally use their residual hearing with speechreading, amplification, hearing aids and/or cochlear implants, and other hearing assistive technology. They may also learn sign language but are oral and don’t use it as a primary mode of communication. Based on the age at the time of loss of hearing, people who are deaf are categorized into two groups: congenitally deaf – those who were born deaf; and adventitiously deaf – those who were born with hearing but whose sense of hearing became non-functional later in life through illness, accident or age-related (presbycusis). The term deaf should always be used with a people descriptor; for example, people who are Deaf; people who are deaf; deaf people.


Ear Wax Removal Technician

A qualified professional able to safely remove ear wax from patient’s ears via methods of microsuction and irrigation.


The eardrum is a thin flap of skin that is stretched tight like a drum and vibrates when sound hits it. These vibrations move the tiny bones of the middle ear, which send vibrations to the inner ear.

Eustachian Tube

The eustachian (say “you-STAY-shee-un”) tubes connect the middle ears to the back of the throat. The tubes help the ears drain fluid. They also keep air pressure in the ears at the right level.  


Hard of Hearing

Hard of hearing is a descriptive term used when making the distinction among people with hearing loss; for example, people who are deaf and hard of hearing. People often use the term hard of hearing to describe themselves no matter the audiological level of hearing loss. Typically, people who use residual hearing, amplification and/or hearing assistive technology and who do not use sign language as a primary mode of communication, consider themselves hard of hearing rather than deaf. Generally, people who consider themselves hard of hearing, no matter their level of hearing loss, are committed to participating in the hearing world using speech reading, residual hearing, technology, and sometimes sign language.

Hearing Aid

An amplification device to assist people with hearing loss. There are different kinds of hearing aids which are distinguished by how they are worn. They might be in-the-ear (ITE), in-the-canal (ITC), behind-the-ear (BTE), or on the body.

Hearing Dog

A dog that has completed extensive training to alert its owner to a variety of sounds in different environments. These dogs are usually identified by a bright orange leash with black lettering.

Hearing Loop

A wire that circles a room and is connected to the sound system. The loop transmits the sound electromagnetically. The electromagnetic signal is then picked up by the telecoil by flipping the t-switch in a hearing aid or cochlear implant.

Hearing Loss

Describes someone with any degree of hearing loss ranging from mild to profound. The term hearing loss can encompass both people who are deaf and people who are hard of hearing.  Most people with hearing loss use residual hearing and use hearing assistive technology such as hearing aids and/or cochlear implants. A small number who are culturally Deaf use sign language as a primary mode of communication.


IIC hearing aids

Invisible in the canal (IIC) hearing aids are the smallest types available. They fit further into the opening of your ear than ITC hearing aids and are barely visible. Each hearing aid is custom made to suit the contours and anatomy of your ear canal for a comfortable fit.


A bone found in the middle ear.

Inner Ear

In the inner ear, sound is processed by the cochlea, while information affecting balance is processed by the semicircular canals. There are tiny hair cells along the entire length of the fluid filled cochlea. When the fluid in the cochlea is displaced by sound waves, the hair cells bend. This triggers a chemical response that transmits the message to the area of the brain in charge of processing and interpreting what we hear.

Interpreter-Sign language

Visible movements of hands, body and face that replace the vocal elements of a spoken language. Depending on the communication situation and personal preferences, people who have hearing loss or who are deaf who use sign language communicate using the English Sign Language.


The water irrigation method to remove ear wax allows an ear wax removal technician to flush warm water through the ear canal using an ear irrigator, allowing the wax to be removed.

(ITE) hearing aids

In the ear (ITE) hearing aids are custom made to fit the outside of the opening of your ear.  A pain-free impression of your ear is taken to ensure the shell of the hearing aid will exactly match the contours of your ear. With a larger battery size, ITE hearing aids tend to have more power and are therefore suitable for those with mild to severe hearing loss.



A skill used by a person with hearing loss to try to understand speech by watching the lips. The term “speechreading” is now recognized as being more descriptive since it includes watching the facial expressions and body language, as well as the lips of the speaker.



A bone found in the middle ear.

Middle Ear

The middle ear is an air-filled cavity that contains the smallest bones in the human body – the malleus, incus and stapes, which are connected to the eardrum and the inner ear. The Eustachian tube keeps the air pressure in the middle ear equal to that of the surrounding environment.

Ménière’s disease

Ménière’s disease is an ear condition that can cause sudden attacks of vertigo. During an attack, you may feel like you or everything around you is spinning, lose your balance and feel sick. Treatments include medicines to stop you feeling dizzy and sick. You may also need treatment for other symptoms like tinnitus. You’re more likely to get Ménière’s disease if you have poor fluid drainage in your ear, allergies or a problem with your immune system.


Microsuction is uses a fine tube is connected to a suction machine. The ear wax technician is able to view your ear canal with the aid of magnifying glasses (loupes) to allow them to see exactly where the wax build up is and carefully extract it.

Mixed Hearing Loss

As the name suggests, this is combination of both Sensorineural and Conductive hearing loss. This type is certainly rarer and can sometimes require further investigation.


Optimised Hearing Pathway

OHP developed and delivered exclusively through Imperial Hearing, takes a different approach to restoring a patients’ hearing. Looking at each individual’s hearing need in detail and their overall hearing ability, the patient is guided through a journey with our hearing specialists. Regular, timely appointments are used to assess each patient to get them hearing as best they can for them, resulting in improved sound and customer satisfaction. We get to know our patients through a unique personal approach and understand their lifestyles, delivering tailored bespoke hearing solutions based on their specific needs. This year, we were able to roll out face to face training to our teams, deepening their understanding and knowledge on how to deliver the best possible service to our patients.

Oral Interpreter

The interpreter silently mouths the words of the speaker, so they are visible on the lips. Used when the person with hearing loss uses speechreading to understand the conversation.

Otoacoustic Emissions

Low-intensity sounds produced by the inner ear that can be quickly measured with a sensitive microphone placed in the ear canal.

Outer Ear

The outer ear includes the pinna, the auditory can and the eardrum. These structures channel sounds from the environment into the middle ear. The pinna helps to gather sound waves and the auditory canal directs them to the eardrum.



The term used to describe the slow, progressive type of hearing loss that goes along with aging. By age 65, one in every three persons has a hearing loss.


Rechargeable batteries

Many hearing aids now contain rechargeable batteries. These batteries usually take about 3-4 hours to fully charge and will power your hearing aids for about 24 hours per charge. The battery itself should last for the entire life of the hearing aid, typically 4-5 years.

RITE / RIC hearing aids

The receiver-in-canal (RIC) model is a very discreet, yet powerful hearing aid that fits comfortably behind your ear. Unlike the Behind The Ear hearing aid (BTE), the loudspeaker of the RIC model sits inside your ear canal. This means that the casing itself is a lot smaller than BTE hearing aids, as there is less circuitry to fit inside.


Sensorial hearing loss

A hearing loss that is caused by hair cell damage in the nerve (Cochlea).


A bone found in the middle ear.



Tinnitus is hearing a noise, such as ringing or buzzing, that is not caused by an outside source.


A setting on a hearing aid that can be used with a hearing aid-compatible telephone, assistive listening device, and audio loop system. When the hearing aid is switched to “T”, it activates the induction telecoil (the technical name for the “T” switch), causing the hearing aid to pick up the magnetic field generated by the “hearing aid-compatible” telephone assistive device, or audio loop system being used.


Visual Alarm Signal

A visual signal (flashing light) giving notice that an audible event has taken place. For example, doorbell, fire alarm, ringing telephone. Some systems monitor a single event; others can monitor several events and indicate which event has occurred.

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