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

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

How Do Hearing Aids Work?

Hearing aids, at their core, are actually simply 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 becomes complicated.

Because the sound is going to be further processed, it needs first to be changed into an electrical analog signal. An advanced change from analog to digital is then performed by a signal processing chip. The sound is clarified after becoming digital by the device’s functions and settings.

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

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

Feedback Loops And How They Happen

Feedback doesn’t just happen inside of hearing aids. Sound systems that come with microphones commonly have some level of feedback. In essence, the microphone is collecting sound which is produced by the receiver and re-amplifying it. 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 produced when the microphone picks up the sound again and re-amplifies it. Simply put, the hearing aid is hearing itself and doesn’t like it.

What Causes Hearing Aid Feedback?

A feedback loop can be brought about by several issues. One of the most common causes is turning the hearing aid on while it’s still in your hand and then putting it in your ear. Your hearing aid starts to process sound waves right when you hit the “on” switch. The sound being produced by the receiver bounces off of your hand and then back into the microphone generating the feedback. Before you decide to switch your hearing aid on put it inside of your ear and you will eliminate this particular source of feedback.

If your hearing aids aren’t fitting as well as they should, this can also cause feedback. Loose fitting devices tend to be a problem with older hearing aids or if you’ve lost some weight since you last had them fitted. Getting it adjusted by the seller is the only good remedy to this one.

Feedback And Earwax

When it comes to hearing aids, earwax is not a friend. One of the main explanations for why hearing aids don’t fit right is because of the buildup of earwax on the casing. Now, feedback is once again being caused by a poor fit. Read the manual that you got with your hearing aids or check with the retailer to learn how to clean earwax off without damaging the device.

Maybe It’s Just Broken

If everything else doesn’t work you should consider this. 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 not try to fix this at home. Schedule a session with a hearing aid repair service to get it fixed.

Sometimes What Sounds Like Feedback is Actually Something Else Entirely

You could be hearing something that sounds like feedback but it’s actually not. Many hearing aids employ sound to alert you of impending issues such as a low battery. 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 have. Typically, the actual cause of the feedback is very clear no matter what brand you own.

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