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

Is that a teapot or is it just your hearing aids? A very common issue with hearing aids which can probably be corrected is feedback. The annoying high pitched sound can be better understood by getting some understanding of how your hearing aids operate. But exactly what can you do about it?

How Do Hearing Aids Work?

Hearing aids, at their core, are actually just a microphone and a speaker. When a sound is picked up by the microphone, the speaker then plays it back. It’s what happens between the microphone and speaker that gets complicated.

In order for the sound to be processed, it must first be translated into an electrical analog signal. The analog form is then converted into digital by the device’s processor. Once the signal is converted to digital, the numerous features and settings of the hearing aids activate to intensify and clarify the sound.

The processor then transforms the signal back to analog and forwards it to a receiver. You’re ears don’t hear these electrical signals which were once a sound. The sound waves, which 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’s hard to comprehend but all of this happens in a nanosecond. In spite of all of this sophisticated technology, the device still feeds back.

How do Feedback Loops Occur?

Feedback happens in other systems besides hearing aids. You hear that same whistle in many sound systems that employ a microphone. The receiver generates sound which the microphone then picks up and re-amplifies. The sound wave enters the microphone, then goes through the signal 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. The system hates hearing itself over and over again and that makes it screech.

What Causes Hearing Aid Feedback?

There are quite a few things that might become a problem which could cause this feedback loop. 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” button. The sound being produced by the receiver bounces off your hand and then back into the microphone generating the feedback. The solution to this difficulty is very simple; wait until after the hearing aid is snuggly in your ear before pressing the switch.

If your hearing aids don’t fit that well, this can also trigger feedback. If you have lost weight since you last had your hearing aids fitted, or possibly if your hearing aids a bit older, you might have a loose fit. In that case, you need to head back to where you got it and have the piece adjusted to fit your ear properly again.

Earwax And Feedback

Earwax isn’t a friend when it comes to hearing aids. One of the major explanations for why hearing aids don’t fit properly is because of the buildup of earwax on the casing. And we already learned that a loose fitting device can cause feedback. Read the manual that you got with your hearing aids or else contact the retailer to learn how to clean earwax off without damaging the device.

Perhaps It’s Only Broken

When you’ve tried everything else but the feedback continues, this is what you do next. A broken hearing aid will indeed cause feedback. The casing could have a crack in it somewhere, for example. Don’t try to fix the unit on your own. Schedule a session with a hearing aid repair service to get it fixed.

Occasionally What Sounds Like Feedback is Actually Something Else Entirely

Hearing aids will make other noises that you may think sound like feedback but are really something else. A low battery or other possible issues will cause a warning sound in some devices. Listen closely to the sound. Is it a tone or a beep, or does it actually sound like feedback? Check the manual to find out if your device comes with this feature and what other warning sounds you should pay attention to in the future.

Feedback doesn’t discriminate by brand or style. Typically, the actual cause of the feedback is very clear regardless of what brand you own.

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