Glossary of Terms for Audiology

American Sign Language (ASL)
A manual language with its own word order and grammar, used primarily by people who are deaf

Atresia (aural)
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, or complete absence of the outer ear Audiogram-a graphic representation to record the results of a hearing test. Results indicate how well sounds can be heard at various pitches.

An allied health care professional who is trained to evaluate hearing, 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 to practice is a Master’s. State licensure is required to provide audiology services in most states.

A device for presenting precisely measured tones of specific frequencies or speech in order to obtain an audiogram

Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) test
A test that can be used to assess auditory function using electrodes on the head to measure hearing sensitivity and evaluate the integrity of the hearing system from the auditory nerve through the brainstem. Other terms are: Brainstem Evoked Response (BSER), Brainstem Auditory Evoked Potential (BAEP), and Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER)

Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD)
A hearing disorder in which sound enters the inner ear normally but the transmission of signals from the inner ear to the brain is impaired. People with auditory neuropathy may have normal hearing, or hearing loss ranging from mild to severe; they always have poor speech-perception abilities, meaning they have trouble understanding speech clearly. Often, speech perception is worse than would be predicted by the degree of hearing loss. The most common pattern is the absence of an ABR with normal OAE.

Auditory nerve
The cranial nerve (VIII) carries nerve impulses from the inner ear to the brain Auditory-Oral Approach-children educated using this approach rely on aided hearing for communication. This approach uses both auditory and speech-reading cues to acquire speech and language.

Auditory Verbal Approach
Children educated in this approach rely on aided hearing for communication. No manual or speechreading modes of communication are encouraged.

Auditory-Verbal Therapist (AVT)
A therapist who specializes in the auditory-verbal therapy approach. AVTs typically have a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology or Audiology and hold a special certification called the LSLS Cert AVT through the AG Bell Academy

Behind the ear hearing aid
A hearing aid is worn behind the ear in a small casing

Bilateral hearing loss
A hearing loss in both ears.

Having to do with both ears.

Bone-conduction hearing aid
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 is typically used for individuals with atresia or chronic ear drainage, or single-sided deafness. This device can be worn on a band or on a titanium fixture implanted into the skull.

Ear wax

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 with the VIII the cranial nerve, or auditory nerve.

Cochlear Implant
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

Completely-in-the-canal hearing aid
A hearing aid that is custom molded to fit deep inside the ear canal. This type of hearing aid is generally not fit for children.

Conditioned Play Audiometry (CPA)
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

Conductive hearing loss
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.

Congenital hearing loss
A hearing loss that is present from birth and which may or may not be hereditary

Cued speech
A visual communication mode that uses handshapes to distinguish speech sounds that look the same when reading the speaker’s lips.

A term used to describe persons who have a hearing loss greater than 90 dB HL; 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 measures the intensity of sound.

Ear canal
The passageway from the outer ear to the eardrum; also known as the external auditory canal

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

Ear Infection
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

Eustachian tube
A small passageway from the back of the throat to the middle ear that allows air into the middle ear

External ear
The outer portion of the ear is normally visible; components of the external or outer ear include the pinna and the external ear canal.

FM System
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 is 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.

Hair cells
The hair-like structures in the inner ear that transform the mechanical energy of sound waves into nerve impulses

Hearing aid
An electronic device that brings amplified sound to the ear; a hearing aid usually consists of a microphone, amplifier, and receiver

Hearing loss (or impairment)
A problem with hearing that is characterized by decreased sensitivity to sound in comparison to normal hearing; see conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss.

Hereditary hearing impairment
Hearing loss is passed down through generations of a family.

Hertz (Hz)
Cycles per second; frequency is denoted in Hz

In-the-ear hearing aid
A hearing aid that is custom molded to fill the entire opening of the ear canal; this type of hearing aid is generally not fit for children.

In-the-canal hearing aid
A hearing aid that is custom molded to fill part of the opening of the ear canal but does not fill the ear canal completely; this type of hearing aid is generally not fit for children.

Inner ear
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

Mastoid bone
A portion of the temporal bone is located behind the external ear. Bone-conduction stimulation often is applied to the mastoid bone.

Congenital deformity of the outer ear. Severity varies from minor skin tags to differences in ear shape.

Middle 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.

Mixed hearing loss
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 pure-tone and bone conduction responses. Open Ear Fit BTE hearing aid coupled to a manufactured “slim tube” which is fitted with a pre-made earpiece

The chain of three tiny bones in the middle ear (malleus, incus, stapes).

Otitis external
Inflammation of the outer part of the ear extending to the auditory canal.

Otitis media
Inflammation of the middle ear is caused by infection.

Otitis media with effusion (OME)
Otitis media with fluid present in the middle ear.

Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE)
Low-intensity sounds produced by the inner ear can be measured with a sensitive microphone placed in the ear canal.

A physician/surgeon who specializes in diseases of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck.

A physician/surgeon who specializes in the treatment of ear problems. Also known as an ENT physician.

The branch of medicine dealing with the ear.

The abnormal formation of new bone in the middle ear gradually immobilizes the middle ear bone called the stapes and prevents it from vibrating in response to sound, causing progressive loss of hearing.

Ototoxic medications
Medications that can damage the ear and result in hearing loss, most often causing hearing loss in the high pitches.

Outer 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.

Post-lingually deafened
An individual who becomes deaf after having acquired language

Pressure-equalizing (PE) tube
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

Pre-lingually deafened
An individual who is either born deaf or who lost his or her hearing early in childhood, before acquiring language

Residual hearing
The amount of measurable, usable hearing

Sensorineural loss
A hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear (cochlea) and/or the hearing nerve

Sign Language
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 meaning.

Speech frequencies
The frequencies within the 500 to 4000 Hz region, which is most important for hearing and understanding of speech

Speech-Language Pathologist
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 loss. The minimum academic degree is a Master’s degree. State licensure is required to practice speech/language pathology in many states, including Georgia.

Speech Recognition Threshold (SRT)
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).

Standard audiometry
The child will raise his or her hand or press a button each time a sound is heard.

Syndromic hearing impairment
A hearing loss that is accompanied by additional physical characteristics (e.g., blindness, mental retardation, or involvement of other organs).

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 testing.

A sensation of ringing, roaring, or buzzing sound in the ears or head. It is often associated with hearing impairment and noise exposure.

Total Communication
English, listening, cued speech, speech reading, and sign language may all be used in combination to communicate.

A measure of tympanic membrane (eardrum) mobility.

Unilateral hearing loss
A hearing loss in one ear only.

Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA)
A pediatric hearing test procedure in which the child’s responses to sound are reinforced with a visual event (e.g., a moving toy)