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

Does your hearing aid sound a bit like a teapot these days? Feedback is a very common problem with hearing aids but it’s not something that you can’t have fixed. That annoying high pitched noise can be better grasped by getting some understanding of how your hearing aids work. But exactly what can you do about it?

How Do Hearing Aids Work?

As a basic rule, hearing aids are just a microphone and a speaker. The speaker plays the sound into your ear which the microphone picks up. When the microphone picks the sound up but before it is played back by the speaker, there are some complicated functions that happen.

Because the sound is going to be further processed, it needs first to be changed into an electrical analog signal. A high-tech digital processing microchip then turns the analog signal to digital. The sound is cleaned up after it becomes digital by the device’s properties and settings.

The signal is sent to a receiver after being changed back to analog by the processor. Now, what was once a sound wave becomes an analog electrical signal and that’s not something you can hear. The sound waves, that the receiver converts the signal back to, are then transmitted through your ears. Ironically, the brain interprets sound by electrical signals, so elements in the cochlea turn it back into electrical signals for the brain to understand.

It all sounds very complicated but it happens in a nanosecond. Despite all of this advanced technology, the hearing aid still feeds back.

Feedback Loops And How They Happen

Feedback doesn’t exclusively happen inside hearing aids. If there is a microphone, chances are there is some amount of feedback. Basically, the microphone is picking up sound that is coming from the receiver and re-amplifying it. The sound wave enters the microphone, then goes through the processing and then the receiver turns it back into a sound wave. The microphone then picks up that same sound wave again and amplifies it producing the feedback loop. Put simply, the hearing aid is hearing itself and doesn’t like it.

Exactly What is The Cause of Hearing Aid Feedback?

There are a number of things that could go wrong to cause this feedback loop. If you turn your hearing aid on in your hand before you put it in, you will get a very common cause. Right when you push the on button, your hearing aid starts to process sound waves. The sound coming from the receiver bounces off of your hand back into the microphone causing the feedback. Before you turn your hearing aid on put it inside of your ear and you will eliminate this source of feedback.

Feedback can also be caused when your hearing aid doesn’t fit as well as it should. Loose fitting devices tend to be a problem with older hearing aids or if you’ve lost weight since you last had them fitted. Getting it adjusted by the retailer is the only real answer to this problem.

Feedback And Earwax

With regards to hearing aids, earwax is not a friend. Hearing aids usually won’t fit correctly if there is earwax built up on the casing. And we already learned that a loose fitting device will be the cause of feedback. Look in the manual that you got with your hearing aids or ask the retailer to determine how to clean earwax off safely.

Perhaps It’s Only Broken

If all else fails you should consider this. Feedback can certainly be caused by a broken or damaged hearing aid. For instance, the outer casing may be cracked. You should not attempt to fix this at home. Schedule a session with a hearing aid repair service to get it fixed.

Occasionally What Sounds Like Feedback is Really Something Else Entirely

You may be hearing something that sounds like feedback but it’s really not. There are things that can go wrong with your hearing aids, like a low battery, which can give you a warning sound. The sound should be carefully listened to. Is it actually a whistling noise or does it sound more like a beep? Consult the users-manual to find out if your device comes with this feature and what other warning sounds you should listen for in the future.

Feedback doesn’t discriminate by brand or style. Most hearing aids are going to produce it and the cause is usually very clear.

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