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

Does your hearing aid sound a little like a teapot recently? A very common problem with hearing aids which can most likely be corrected is feedback. Understanding how hearing aids function and what might be the reason for that annoying whistling sound will get you a little closer to eliminating it. What can be done about hearing aid feedback?

What Exactly Are The Functions of Your Hearing Aids?

A simple microphone and a speaker are the core of hearing aid technology. After a sound is picked up by the microphone, the speaker then plays it back in your ears. It’s what happens between the microphone and speaker that gets complicated.

The sound is translated to an analog electrical signal for processing after entering the microphone. The analog form is then translated into a digital signal by the device’s digital signal processor. The sound is cleaned up after becoming digital by the device’s features and controls.

The digital signal processor then transforms the signal back to analog and transmits it to a receiver. At this stage, what was once a sound becomes an analog signal and that isn’t something you can hear. The waves of sound, that the receiver changes the signal back into, are then transmitted through your ears. Elements in the cochlea translate it back into an electrical signal that the brain can interpret.

It all sounds very complex but it occurs in a nanosecond. Despite all of this sophisticated technology, the device still feeds back.

Feedback Loops And How They Happen

Feedback doesn’t exclusively happen in hearing aids. Sound systems that come with microphones normally have some amount of feedback. Basically, the microphone is collecting sound that is coming from the receiver and re-amplifying it. The sound wave enters the microphone, then goes through the signal processing and after that the receiver turns it 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 doesn’t like it.

Exactly What is The Cause of Hearing Aid Feedback?

A feedback loop might be created by several issues. One of the most common causes is turning the hearing aid on while it’s still in your hand and then putting it into your ear. Your hearing aid starts to process sound waves right when you press the “on” button. The sound being produced by the receiver bounces off of your hand and then back into the microphone producing the feedback. Before you switch your hearing aid on put it inside of your ear and you will eliminate this particular source of feedback.

Feedback is sometimes caused when your hearing aid isn’t fitting as well as it should. Maybe you’ve lost some weight since you had your hearing aids fitted, or if your hearing aids a bit older, you may have a loose fit. If that’s the case, you should head back to the retailer and have the piece adjusted to fit your ear properly again.

Feedback And Earwax

With regards to hearing aids, earwax is not a friend. One of the major explanations for why hearing aids don’t fit right is because of the accumulation of earwax on the casing. When that occurs, the device becomes loose again and causes feedback. Look in the manual that you got with your hearing aids or check with the retailer to determine exactly how to clean earwax off without damaging the device.

Perhaps It’s Simply Broken

If all else doesn’t work you need to take this into consideration. Feedback will certainly be caused by a broken or damaged hearing aid. For example, the outer casing may be cracked. You should not try to fix this damage at home. Take it in for expert repair.

Occasionally What Sounds Like Feedback is Really Something Else Entirely

There is a chance that what you are hearing is not really feedback at all. Some hearing aids employ sound to warn you of imminent problems like a low battery. 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.

It doesn’t matter what brand or style you have. Most hearing aids are going to produce it and the cause is typically quite clear.

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