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

Is that a teapot or is it just your hearing aids? Feedback is a very common issue with hearing aids but it’s not something that you can’t have fixed. Understanding how hearing aids operate and what is behind that annoying whistling will get you one step closer to getting rid of it. So what can you do about it?

What Exactly Are The Functions of Your Hearing Aids?

At their core, hearing aids are simply a microphone and a speaker. When a sound is picked up by the microphone, the speaker then plays it back. But there are complex functions in between the time that the microphone picks up the sound and when the speaker plays it back.

Once a sound wave enters the microphone it gets converted into an electrical analog signal to be further processed. A cutting edge digital signal processing chip then turns the analog signal to a digital one. The device’s advanced properties and settings activate to amplify and clarify the sound.

The processor then transforms the signal back to analog and sends it to a receiver. It’s not possible to hear these electrical signals which were once a sound. The receiver converts the signal back into sound waves and transmits them through your ears. Elements in the cochlea turn it back into an electrical signal that the brain can interpret.

This all sounds quite complex but it occurs 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, it’s likely there is some feedback. The receiver generates sound which the microphone then picks up and re-amplifies. The sound wave goes into the microphone, goes through the processing and then the receiver turns it back into a sound wave. A feedback loop is then created when the microphone picks up the sound again and re-amplifies it. Put simply, the hearing aid is listening to itself and doesn’t like it.

Exactly What is The Cause of Hearing Aid Feedback?

A feedback loop can be caused by several issues. If you turn on your hearing aid while it’s still in your hand prior to putting it in, you will get a very common cause. Your hearing aid starts to process sound waves right when you hit the “on” switch. The sound coming from the receiver bounces off of your hand back into the microphone producing the feedback. The answer to this concern is pretty simple; you should wait until after the device is snuggly in your ear before pressing the button.

Feedback is sometimes caused when your hearing aid isn’t fitting properly. If you have lost weight since you had your hearing aids fitted, or if your hearing aids a bit older, you may have a loose fit. Getting an adjustment from the seller is the only good remedy to this one.

Earwax And Feedback

With regards to hearing aids, earwax is not a friend. One of the main reasons that hearing aids don’t fit right is because of the buildup of earwax on the casing. Now, feedback is again being caused by a loose fit. Read the manual that you got with your hearing aids or else contact the retailer to determine exactly how to clean earwax off without damaging the device.

Maybe It’s Only Broke

This is your next thing to start thinking about when you’ve tried everything else. Feedback can absolutely be caused by a broken or damaged hearing aid. The casing could have a crack in it somewhere, for example. You should never attempt to fix this at home. Make an appointment with a hearing aid expert to get a repair.

Occasionally What Sounds Like Feedback is Really Something Else Entirely

You may well be hearing something that sounds like feedback but it’s actually not. A low battery or other potential problems can cause a warning sound in many devices. The sound should be carefully listened to. Is it actually a whistling noise or does it sound more like a beep? Check 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.

It doesn’t make a difference what brand or style you use. Many brands of hearing aids are capable of producing it and the cause is typically quite clear.