Woman suffering from feedback in her hearing aids covering her ears.

Is that a teakettle or is that just your hearing aids? Feedback is a very common problem with hearing aids but it’s not something that you can’t have fixed. Understanding exactly how hearing aids work and what is behind that incessant high pitched whistling noise will get you one step closer to eradicating it. What can be done about hearing aid feedback?

What Exactly Are The Functions of Your Hearing Aids?

Hearing aids, basically, are really just a microphone and a speaker. When a sound is picked up by the microphone, the speaker then plays it back. When the microphone picks the sound up but before it is played back by the speaker, there are some complicated functions that happen.

After the sound enters the microphone it is transformed to an analog signal for processing. A cutting edge digital processing chip then converts the analog signal to digital. Once digital, the various features and controls of the device kick in to intensify and clarify the sound.

The processor then changes the signal back to analog and sends it to a receiver. At this point, what was once a sound becomes an analog signal and that’s not something your ears can hear. The receiver converts the signal back to sound waves and transmits them through your ear canal. Ironically, the brain interprets sound by electrical signals, so elements in the cochlea translate it back to electrical signals for the brain to understand.

Incredibly all of this complex functionality happens in a nanosecond. So if your hearing aid is so advanced why does it still feedback?

Feedback Loops And How They Happen

Hearing aids are not the only place where you notice feedback. You hear that same high pitched noise in most sound systems which use a microphone. Essentially, the microphone is picking up sound that is coming from the receiver and re-amplifying it. After going into the microphone and getting processed, the receiver then transforms the signal back into a sound wave. The sound is re-amplified after the microphone picks it up again which brings about a loop of feedback. Simply put, the hearing aid is hearing itself and it doesn’t like it.

What Causes Hearing Aid Feedback?

There are a number of things that might become a problem which could cause this feedback loop. If you turn your hearing aid on in your hand prior to putting it in, you will get one of the most common causes. Your hearing aid begins processing sound waves as soon as you press the “on” button. The sound being produced by the receiver bounces off of your hand and then back into the microphone generating the feedback. If your hearing aid is snuggly inside of your ear before turning it on, you will have resolved this particular feedback concern.

If your hearing aids aren’t fitting as well as they should, this can also result in feedback. Loose fitting devices tend to be a problem with older hearing aids or if you’ve lost some weight since having them fitted. In that case, you should go back to the retailer and have the piece re-adjusted to fit your ear properly again.

Earwax And Feedback

Hearing aids absolutely have problems with earwax. Hearing aids won’t always fit right if there is earwax built up on the casing. When that happens, the device becomes loose again and triggers feedback. Read the manual that you got with your hearing aids or check with the retailer to determine exactly how to clean earwax off safely.

Maybe It’s Simply Broke

If all else doesn’t work you need to consider this. A broken hearing aid will indeed cause feedback. As an example, the outer casing may be cracked. Don’t try to fix the unit yourself. Take it in for professional repair.

When is Feedback Not Really Feedback

Hearing aids can make other noises that you may think sound like feedback but are in fact something else. There are a few other things that can go wrong with your hearing aids, such as a low battery, which will give you a warning sound. Listen closely to the sound. Is it a tone or a beep, or does it really sound like feedback? If your device has this feature, the owners manual will tell you.

Feedback doesn’t discriminate by brand or style. Typically, the actual cause of the feedback is pretty clear regardless of what brand you have.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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