Here is a glossary to help you better understand many of the key terms related to the Deaf and hard-of-hearing world.
Auslan is short for Australian sign language, a language developed by, and for, Australians who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. It’s a visual form of communication that uses hand, arm and body movements to convey meaning.
Also known as glue ear, AOM is a short-term ear infection that often appears suddenly. Symptoms include a build-up of fluid in the middle ear, which can get infected.
Digital hearing aids have systems (directional microphones and noise reduction) that detect if you are in a quiet or noisy environment. They are able to locate the source of the sound, and adjust their settings to optimise performance.
Aminoglycoside is a name for a group of antibiotic drugs that are most likely to cause hearing loss. These include gentamicin, streptomycin and neomycin. Aminoglycoside antibiotics are usually used only to treat life-threatening bacterial infections, such as tuberculosis.
These aids have a microphone that picks up sound and converts the sound into small electrical signals. These electrical signals are then amplified (made louder) and fed into an earphone on the hearing aid so you can hear them. They have largely been replaced by digital hearing aids.
These are technical tools that assist people with hearing loss (with or without a hearing aid or cochlear implant). It brings the speaker’s voice directly to the ear and helps to cover the problems of distant and surrounding noise.
Also known as an induction loop or hearing loop, the audio loop uses electromagnetic waves for transmission of sound. The sound from an amplifier feeds into a wire loop surrounding the seating area. It is then broadcasted to a telecoil that receives the sound. Hearing aids without a T-switch to activate a telecoil can use a special induction receiver to pick up the sound.
ABR tests are tests for brain functioning in patients who are comatose or unresponsive, as well as to detect hearing in infants and young children. It is done by attaching electrodes to the head. This allows the recording of electrical activity from the hearing nerve and other parts of the brain.
The auditory nerve is the eighth cranial nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain stem. It is responsible for hearing and balance. Also known as the cochlear or acoustic nerve, the auditory nerve carries signals from the cochlea to the brain.
Auditory neuropathy is a hearing disorder where sound enters the inner ear normally, but is impaired when signals move from the inner ear to the brain.
An audiogram is a chart that represents a person’s hearing ability, as determined by a hearing test. Audiologists use audiograms to help judge whether a person has a hearing loss and what type of help they may need.
Audiologists identify and assess hearing and balance problems. They recommend and provide appropriate support, products and treatments to help lessen the effects of hearing loss. Audiologists work both privately and for the Australian Department of Health.
APD affects how auditory information is processed within the brain. APD is used as an umbrella term that includes any disorder that may affect this processing. Usually someone who has a normal functioning outer, middle and inner ear might not be able to process sounds in the same way that others do. This would typically present difficulties for that person.
Aural communication relates to the hearing element of verbal communication. This is not to be confused with ‘oral’ communication, which relates to the spoken element of verbal communication.
BTE aids have an ear mould that fits inside the ear, while the rest of the aid rests behind the ear. Some models have twin microphones to switch between all-around sound and a directional setting that can help focus sound in noisy places.
These aids have a small box that clips to your clothes or fits inside your pocket. They are connected by a lead to the earphone. Some people find the controls less fiddly than smaller hearing aids. Body-worn hearing aids can be very powerful.
Also known as ‘bone-anchored hearing implants’, these aids are for people with conductive hearing loss or people who cannot wear conventional hearing aids. They deliver sound through the skull via vibrations.
Brainstem implants can improve hearing in patients with neural hearing loss. This is for loss caused by cancer of the auditory (hearing) nerve, or by an auditory nerve that failed to develop properly. Implants convert sound into electrical impulses that stimulate the brain directly, bypassing the auditory nerve.
A captioned telephone displays a conversation in text on a monitor built into the phone. This allows the person with hearing loss to follow the call. It requires a special phone.
CART is the system used to convert spoken language into text. It converts the spoken language precisely and almost instantly, and uses a stenotype machine, notebook computer and real-time software to produce the text. The text is usually displayed in 1 of 2 ways: 1) on a screen by a projector connected to a notebook computer, or 2) on a computer monitor connected to a notebook computer.
When a digital hearing aid processes sound, the sound splits into channels or bands. The amplification in these channels or bands can be adjusted independently to more accurately suit an individual’s hearing loss.
Cholesteatoma is a condition of the middle ear, which generally starts with a hole in the eardrum (usually in the upper part of the drum). When this becomes infected, the eardrum sheds dead skin that mixes with other debris in the ear. This then forms a mass called a cholesteatoma. If left untreated, the cholesteatoma can grow and cause damage to different parts of the ear. This can lead to hearing loss, tinnitus and sometimes balance problems. In very severe cases, it can cause meningitis or brain infections, but this is very rare.
Chronic otitis media is an infection in the middle ear. It can last for a long time or it can keep reappearing. In adults, symptoms can include drainage from the ear, ear pain and trouble hearing.
Closed captions are the text display of spoken dialogue and sounds on TV and videos. They are visible only to those using a caption decoder, or a TV with a built-in decoder chip.
The cochlea is the hearing organ of the inner ear and is filled with fluid. When sound waves enter the cochlea from the middle ear, the fluid vibrates. This vibration causes tiny sensory-hair cells to pick up the movement, which triggers an electrical signal in the auditory nerve. These signals pass to the brain and are then heard as sound.
Cochlear implants provide a sensation of hearing to severely or profoundly deaf people. The implants sit outside the head. They consist of a microphone and a transmitter that sends signals to an implanted receiver, which sits under the skin. In turn, this sends signals to electrodes’ implants in the cochlea. When the electrodes receive a signal, electric currents stimulate the auditory nerve, which carries sound from the cochlea to the brain. The implant is surgically inserted and directly stimulates functioning auditory nerve fibres in the inner ear.
A person raised by one or more Deaf parents or guardians. CODAs usually form a bridge and liaison between the deaf and hearing.
CIC aids are smaller than in-the-ear (ITE) aids, so they are less visible. They are usually not suitable if you have severe hearing loss or frequent ear infections.
Hearing aids amplify weak sounds to a level that the user can hear. They also ensure not to amplify strong sounds too much. Compression is the system that manages this. It enables a user to listen comfortably to sounds that quickly change from quiet to loud, without manually changing settings.
Communication access refers to accommodation, venues, or facilities that provide an environment where persons with hearing loss can communicate.
A compatible telephone generates a magnetic field that is accessed by turning on a ‘T-switch’. This activates the telecoil in a hearing aid.
A note taker types on a computer keyboard a summary of what is being said. The notes are displayed on a projection screen or monitor.
Conductive deafness occurs when sound cannot pass freely through the outer or middle ear. The usual cause is a blockage in the outer or middle ear from an infection or wax build-up. Depending on the cause, conductive hearing loss can be temporary or permanent, and can sometimes be cured with minor surgery or medication.
Cued speech is a sound-based visual-communication system. In English, it uses eight different hand shapes in four different locations (known as ‘cues’). It combines these with the natural mouth movements of speech to make all of the sounds of spoken language look different.
CMV disease is part of the herpes family of viruses. Once infected, the person carries the virus permanently, as no cure exists. If a woman is infected for the first time during pregnancy, there is a risk she may pass the infection to the unborn baby. The infection in the baby is known as congenital CMV and can cause hearing loss or deafness.
The term Deaf is used to describe those who use Auslan (Australian Sign Language) to communicate, and who identify as members of the signing Deaf community.
These people may also identify themselves as ‘culturally Deaf’, meaning they are born deaf or became deaf early in life.
‘deaf’ with a small ‘d’ is a more general term to describe the physical condition of not hearing. It also describes people who are physically deaf but do not identify as members of the signing Deaf community.
Deaf Australia is the national peak advocacy and information organisation in Australia for Deaf people who are bilingual, using both English and Auslan.
Many Deaf people whose first or preferred language is Auslan (Australian Sign Language) consider themselves part of the Deaf community. They may describe themselves as Deaf with a capital D to emphasise their Deaf identity.
The term ‘deafblind’ refers to people who have some hearing and vision, as well as people who are totally deaf and blind.
The term ‘deafened’ refers to people born with hearing who then become severely or profoundly deaf after learning to speak. This can happen suddenly or gradually. It is also known as acquired profound hearing loss (APHL).
A dB is a unit of measurement used to express the intensity of a sound wave in ratios to the base of 10. Sounds of different frequencies need to be from 0-20 dB in intensity to be heard by normal ears. If a person needs more than 20 dB to hear, then further hearing evaluation would be recommended.
Digital hearing aids take signals from the in-built microphone and convert these into code. A tiny computer in the hearing aid manipulates the code, enabling the aids to be set to an individual’s hearing needs.
Some hearing aids have multiple microphones to help detect the direction of a sound source. The hearing aid can focus on sounds sourced from the front of the person, rather than the side or behind. The microphones make it easier to follow conversations in noisy places.
The vestibular aqueduct and inner ear are located in the temporal bone in the skull. The vestibular aqueduct is a narrow, bony canal containing the endolymphatic duct, which carries a fluid called endolymph from the inner ear to the endolymphatic sac. Endolymph is essential for normal inner-ear function.
It is assumed that the endolymphatic duct and sac are responsible for maintaining the chemical composition of the endolymph. If a vestibular aqueduct is enlarged, the endolymphatic sac and duct may also become enlarged.
The causes for enlarged vestibular aqueducts are undetermined. Most people with enlarged vestibular aqueducts will have some degree of sensorineural hearing loss, which can worsen over time. It can occur on its own or as part of a syndrome, such as Pendred syndrome and branchio-oto-renal (BOR) syndrome. Enlarged vestibular aqueducts can also be linked to balance problems.
FM refers to a transmitter that broadcasts a signal by radio waves, from the sound source to a receiver worn by the listener. It is useful in large indoor or outdoor locations, since it can cover several hundred feet and pass through physical obstructions.
Also known as otitis media with effusion (OME), glue ear is most common in young children. It occurs when fluid builds up in the middle ear and fails to drain back down the Eustachian tube which runs from the middle ear to the back of the throat. It can cause temporary hearing loss in one or both ears. If glue ear persists in a young child, it may lead to noticeable deafness, changes in behaviour and a delay in speech development. Although it is most common in children, it can also affect adults.
Hair cells are sensory cells in the cochlea that convert sound vibrations into electrical signals that travel along the auditory nerve to the brain. Loss or damage to hair cells results in permanent hearing loss.
HoH is a term usually used to describe people with mild to moderate hearing loss (unable to hear sounds between 25dB and 69dB). This term is often applied to people who are losing their hearing gradually due to age. Deaf Australia used this term to describe those who have acquired a hearing loss in late childhood or adulthood, or who have a mild to moderate hearing loss. Hard-of-hearing people usually communicate using speech, lipreading and residual hearing (often with the use of hearing aids).
Hearing aids can be set up with different listening programmes depending on the environment they are working in. Examples include everyday use, background noise or for use with a loop system.
People who prefer an alternative for ‘hard-of-hearing’ use this term.
The term ‘hearing loss’ is used to cover any hearing impairment, from mild hearing loss (unable to hear sounds below 25dB) to profound deafness (unable to hear sounds below 95dB).
Hyperacusis is abnormal discomfort caused by sounds that listeners with ordinary hearing could easily tolerate. Many people who experience hyperacusis will not have hearing loss, but it is commonly linked with other hearing problems, such as tinnitus or Ménière’s Disease.
ITE hearing aids are small enough to fit inside the ear, but not as small as completely-in-the-ear canal (CIC) aids. Working parts are either in a small compartment clipped to the ear mould or inside the mould itself. ITE aids tend to need repairing more often than BTE aids.
Established in 1977, the IFHOH is an international non-governmental organisation of national associations of and for hard-of-hearing and late-deafened people. With its member organisations, IFHOH promotes greater understanding of hearing-loss issues and improves access for hard-of-hearing people worldwide. To do this, it provides a platform for co-operation and information exchange among its members and interested parties.
Also known as Obscure Auditory Dysfunction, King Kopletzy syndrome is an example of Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). With this syndrome, an individual has difficulty hearing speech in the presence of background noise, but hearing-test results seem normal.
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Also known as an induction loop, a loop system is an assistive listening device. It can be used with hearing aids to reduce background noise in places where it might be difficult to hear. Loop systems are commonly available in public places such as banks, post offices and theatres. Hearing-aid users need to switch to the ‘T’ or ‘telecoil’ setting to use a loop system.
Ménière’s disease is a rare condition that affects the inner ear. It can cause 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.
Natural deafness is when there is no auditory nerve or the nerve is damaged, so the inner ear cannot send information to the brain.
Noise-induced hearing loss occurs when ears are exposed to sounds that are too loud or that last a long time. Sensitive structures in our ear (hair cells) can be damaged and cause noise-induced hearing loss. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back, so this hearing loss cannot be reversed. Noise-suppression technology can lessen the risks associated with this type of hearing loss.
Conventional ear moulds are not required for an open-ear fitting. Instead, a small tube carries the sound from the hearing aid into the ear and is held in place by a small tip and/or sprung plastic projection. These small earpieces can give a more natural sound and do not feel as ‘full’ in the ear as conventional ear moulds. However, open-ear fittings are not suitable for everyone.
Ossicles are tiny bones in the middle ear and can become damaged. Damaged ossicles can be repaired or replaced by having an operation called ossiculoplasty.
Otitis media is an infection or inflammation of the middle ear, usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
OME is also known as glue ear and is common in young children. It is caused by a build-up of fluid in the middle ear and normally occurs after acute otitis media.
Otosclerosis is a condition that results in abnormal growth of bone in the middle ear. It can cause conductive hearing loss. The excess bone prevents the ossicles in the middle ear from moving freely. Hearing loss of this type causes sounds to become quieter rather than becoming distorted.
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.
Perforated eardrums refers to a hole or tear in the eardrum. It will usually heal by itself, but can sometimes require surgery called myringoplasty, where a tissue graft is used to seal up the hole.
Presbycusis is commonly referred to as age-related hearing loss. If you have noise-induced hearing loss and develop presbycusis too, the combination can mean your hearing loss is worse than having presbycusis alone.
Pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom that causes the sensation of hearing a rhythmic noise, such as a heartbeat, swooshing or whooshing, from no external source. The loudness and pitch can vary across individuals. The sound may be constantly present or may disappear and return.
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A real-ear measurement is a method used by an audiologist to make sure the hearing aids are set up the right way. It does this by measuring the sound levels in ear canals.
Also called loudspeaker-in-the-ear aids, RITE hearing aids are smaller than behind-the-ear (BTE) aids, because some part of the device sits inside the ear. They are not as small as in-the-ear (ITE) or completely-in-the-ear canal (CIC) aids. Like open ear BTEs, they can be easier to put in than an ear mould. There are different RITE hearing aids for different levels of hearing loss.
Some hearing aids have remote controls that allow switching between settings, including volume and programmes.
Stem cells have a remarkable capacity to renew themselves and to become different cell types. Introducing stem cells into damaged tissue such as cochlea can restore different cell types – sensory, hair, supporting and nerve cells. Stem-cell therapy can be an alternative to drug and gene therapies and cochlear implants.
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.
Tinnitus is experienced as noise in the ears. The sound produced by tinnitus is normally described as ringing, whistling or buzzing.
The goal of translational research is to research therapies, treatments or tools that will undergo clinical trials before they are made available to patients. This research model moves laboratory-based discoveries toward clinical applications.
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Vertigo is a condition that gives the sensation of losing balance, or a moving environment. Vertigo can cause nausea or difficulty standing, and its most common cause is an imbalance in the inner ear. Other causes include Ménière’s disease or inflammation of the vestibular nerve, which runs into the inner ear and sends messages to the brain.
The WFD is an international non-profit and non-governmental organisation of deaf associations from 133 countries. In addition to this, its membership includes Associate Members, International Members and International Members and Individual Members as well as two categories of Youth Members. The WFD has eight Regional Secretariats and one Co-operating Member. Its legal seat is in Helsinki, Finland where the WFD Secretariat operates. The WFD is one of the two main peak international Deaf organisations.
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