Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

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

Does your hearing aid sound a bit like a teakettle recently? Feedback is a very common problem with hearing aids but it’s not something that can’t be fixed. The annoying high pitched noise can be better understood by learning how your hearing aids function. So what can you do about it?

How Do Hearing Aids Work?

Hearing aids, at their core, are actually simply a microphone and a speaker. The speaker plays the sound into your ear which 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.

The sound is then modified into an analog electrical signal to be processed after being picked up by the microphone. The analog rendition is then translated into digital by the device’s processor. The sound is clarified after becoming digital by the device’s functions and settings.

The processor then transforms the signal back to analog and forwards it to a receiver. It’s not possible to hear these electrical signals that were once a sound. The receiver converts it back into sound waves and transmits them through your ears. Ironically, the brain interprets sound by electrical signals, so elements in the cochlea translate it back to electrical signals for the brain to understand.

This all sounds quite complex but it happens in about a nanosecond. So if your hearing aid is so advanced why does it feedback?

How do Feedback Loops Happen?

Feedback doesn’t only happen inside hearing aids. If the sound system uses a microphone, it’s likely there is some amount of feedback. The receiver generates sound which the microphone then picks up and re-amplifies. After entering the microphone and getting processed, the receiver then turns the signal back into a sound wave. The sound is then re-amplified after the microphone picks it up again which produces a loop of feedback. Put simply, the hearing aid is hearing itself and it doesn’t like it.

Exactly What is The Cause of Hearing Aid Feedback?

There are quite a few things that might become a problem which could create this feedback loop. A very common cause is turning the hearing aid on in your hand and then putting it into your ear. Right when you push the on switch, your hearing aid starts to process sound waves. The sound coming from the receiver bounces off of your hand and then back into the microphone causing the feedback. The solution to this concern is very simple; wait until the hearing aid is snuggly in your ear before hitting the switch.

Feedback is sometimes caused when your hearing aid doesn’t fit as well as it should. If you have lost some weight since you last had your hearing aids fitted, or possibly if your hearing aids a bit older, you may have a loose fit. In that case, you should go back to the retailer and have the piece adjusted so it will fit your ear properly again.

Earwax And Feedback

With regards to hearing aids, earwax is in no way a friend. Hearing aids usually won’t fit well if there is an accumulation of earwax on them. And we are already aware that a loose fitting device will be the cause of feedback. Read the manual that you got with your hearing aids or else check with the retailer to determine how to clean earwax off without damaging the device.

Perhaps It’s Only Broken

When you’ve attempted everything else but the feedback continues, this is what you do next. Feedback can certainly be caused by a broken hearing aid. The casing may have a crack in it somewhere, for example. It’s unwise to try to fix the unit yourself. Schedule a session with a hearing aid repair service to get it fixed.

Occasionally What Sounds Like Feedback is Actually Something Else Altogether

You might be hearing something that you think sounds like feedback but it’s really not. 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. The sound should be carefully listened to. Is it really a whistling noise or does it sound more like a beep? Check your manual to find out if your device has this feature and what other warnings you should listen for in the future.

Feedback doesn’t discriminate by brand or style. Usually, the cause of the feedback is quite clear no matter what brand you have.

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