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

Is that a teakettle or is it just your hearing aids? A very common concern with hearing aids which can probably be fixed is feedback. Understanding how hearing aids function and what is behind that constant whistling will get you one step closer to getting rid of it. What can be done about hearing aid feedback?

What Exactly Are The Functions of Your Hearing Aids?

Hearing aids, basically, are actually just a microphone and a speaker. The speaker plays back the sound in your ear that the microphone picks up. But there are intricate functions in between when the microphone picks up the sound and when the speaker plays it back.

Once a sound wave is picked up by the microphone it is translated into an analog signal for processing. The analog form is then converted into digital by the device’s digital signal processor. Once digital, the various features and controls of the hearing aids start working to intensify and clarify the sound.

The processor then transforms the signal back to analog and transmits it to a receiver. Now, what was once a sound wave becomes an analog signal and that isn’t something you can hear. The receiver converts the signal back to sound waves and sends them through your ear canal. Ironically, the brain interprets sound by electrical signals, so elements in the cochlea translate it back into electrical signals for the brain to understand.

This all sounds very complex but it happens in about a nanosecond. Despite all of this sophisticated technology, the hearing aid still feeds back.

Feedback Loops And How They Happen

Hearing aids are not the only place where you hear feedback. You hear that same high pitched noise in most sound systems that use a microphone. The receiver produces sound which the microphone then picks up and re-amplifies. The sound wave goes into the microphone, goes through the processing and after that the receiver transforms it into a sound wave. A feedback loop is then created when the microphone picks up the sound again and re-amplifies it. To put it simply, the hearing aid is listening to itself and doesn’t like it.

What Causes Hearing Aid Feedback?

There are several things that can become a problem which could cause this feedback loop. One of the most common causes is turning the hearing aid on in your hand and then putting it into your ear. As soon as you press the on switch, your hearing aid begins processing sound. The sound coming from the receiver bounces off of your hand and then back into the microphone triggering the feedback. Before you turn your hearing aid on put it inside of your ear to eliminate this particular source of feedback.

Feedback is sometimes caused when your hearing aid isn’t fitting properly. Loose fitting devices have a tendency to be a problem with older hearing aids or if you’ve lost some weight since having them fitted. In that case, you need to head back to where you got it and have the piece re-adjusted so it will fit your ear properly again.

Earwax And Feedback

When it comes to hearing aids, earwax is in no way a friend. One of the major reasons that hearing aids don’t fit right is because of the buildup of earwax on the casing. When that takes place, the device is once again loose and causes feedback. Read the manual that came with your hearing aids or ask the retailer to learn how to clean earwax off safely.

Maybe It’s Simply Broke

When you’ve tried everything else but the feedback continues, this is where you head next. Feedback will certainly be caused by a broken or damaged hearing aid. For example, the outer casing might be cracked. It’s unwise to try to fix it yourself. Schedule a session with a hearing aid repair service to have it fixed.

When is Feedback Not Actually Feedback

There is a chance that what you are hearing is actually not feedback to begin with. Some hearing aids employ sound to alert you of impending issues like a low battery. Listen closely to the sound. Is it really a whistling noise or does it sound more like a beep? Consult your users-manual to find out if your device includes this feature and what other warnings you should pay attention to in the future.

It doesn’t matter what brand or style you use. Many brands of hearing aids are going to produce it and the cause is usually quite clear.

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