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

Does your hearing aid sound a little like a teakettle these days? A very common problem with hearing aids which can probably be corrected is feedback. If you would like to come one step closer to understanding why you keep hearing that high pitch whistling sound, you need to understand how your hearing aids operate. So what can you do about it?

How Do Hearing Aids Work?

Hearing aids, basically, are really simply a microphone and a speaker. The speaker plays the sound into your ear that the microphone picks up. It’s what happens between the microphone and speaker that becomes a little complicated.

The sound is changed into an analog electrical signal to be processed after entering the microphone. A sophisticated conversion from analog to digital is then carried out by a signal processing chip. The device’s sophisticated properties and controls activate to amplify and clarify the sound.

The signal is transmitted to a receiver after being changed back to analog by the digital signal processor. It’s not possible to hear these electrical signals that were once a sound. The sound waves, that the receiver converts the signal back into, are then sent 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.

It’s hard to believe but all of this takes place in around a nanosecond. So if your hearing aid is so advanced why does it still feedback?

How do Feedback Loops Happen?

Feedback occurs in other sound systems besides hearing aids. If the sound system uses a microphone, most likely there is some feedback. The receiver puts out sound which the microphone then picks up and re-amplifies. After entering the microphone and being processed, the receiver then turns the signal back into a sound wave. A feedback loop is then produced when the microphone picks up the sound again and re-amplifies it. The hearing aid doesn’t like hearing itself over and over again and that makes it scream.

What Causes Hearing Aid Feedback?

A feedback loop can be brought about by several difficulties. If you turn your hearing aid on in your hand before you put it in, you will get a very common cause. Your hearing aid starts to process sound as soon as you press the “on” button. The sound coming from the receiver bounces off your hand back into the microphone producing the feedback. Before you decide to switch your hearing aid on put it inside of your ear and you will eliminate this source of feedback.

In some cases hearing aids don’t fit quite as well as they ought to and that leads to feedback. Loose fitting devices tend 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 go back to the retailer and have the piece re-adjusted so it will fit your ear properly again.

Feedback And Earwax

Hearing aids definitely have issues with earwax. One of the main explanations for why hearing aids don’t fit properly is because of the accumulation of earwax on the casing. Now, feedback is again being caused by a loose fit. Read the manual that came with your hearing aids or else consult the retailer to find out exactly how to clean earwax off safely.

Perhaps It’s Simply Broken

If everything else fails you need to take this into consideration. Feedback can absolutely be caused by a broken or damaged hearing aid. For instance, the outer casing might be cracked. Don’t try and fix it on your own. Schedule an appointment with a hearing aid expert to get a repair.

When is Feedback Not Really Feedback

There is a possibility that what you are hearing is not feedback at all. There are things that can go wrong with your hearing aids, like a low battery, which will give you a warning sound. The sound should be carefully listened to. Is it really a screeching noise or does it sound more like a beep? If your device includes this feature, the manual will tell you.

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 usually pretty clear.

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