A Guide to Coping with Hearing Aid Feedback - Attune
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A Guide to Coping with Hearing Aid Feedback

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Do you have hearing loss but are too afraid to use hearing aids because of the dreaded hearing aid feedback? Is the thought of your hearing aid randomly emitting a high-pitched squeal or whistling sound giving you anxiety? Well, worry no more. As technology continues to advance, so do our solutions to fighting hearing aid feedback and avoiding it altogether. 

What is hearing aid feedback?

Many of us remember the good old days when your grandparents or long-lost relatives would come around and be presenting their new hearing aid. And although you were very happy they had found a solution to their hearing loss, you just could not seem to think or talk over that rigorous roaring or whistling coming from their hearing aid. Well, that’s what we call hearing aid feedback

Hearing aid feedback is defined as the unpleasant high-pitched squeal, screech, static, howl, loud buzz, hiss or whistle a hearing aid makes when in use. There are three mechanisms by which hearing aid feedback occurs: Acoustical, mechanical, and electronic. 

Acoustical feedback

Acoustical feedback is quite simple and can be explained in three steps.

  1. Sound is emitted from the hearing aids speaker into the ear.
  2. That sound leaks out of the ear and finds its way to the hearing aids microphone.
  3. That sound is picked up by the microphone and re-amplified which results in the creation of the unpleasant annoying whistle.

Mechanical feedback

Mechanical feedback occurs due to the creation of physical vibrations as a result of contact between the hearing aid speaker and hearing aid casing and can also be explained in three steps.

  1. Sound is emitted from the hearing aids speaker to the ear. 
  2. However, the vibration of the speaker is transmitted to the microphone through the tubing of a behind the ear aid, or the shell and faceplate of a custom in the ear aid. 
  3. That vibration is then picked up by the microphone and is reamplified causing a feedback loop (annoying whistling or squealing). 

Electronic feedback

Electronic feedback is the result of a malfunctioning hearing aid and requires a hearing aid expert to oversee and fix the issue. The malfunction is often a result of damage to the device’s complex circuitry processes. 

kid with hearing aids

Now that we’ve understood the mechanism by which hearing aid feedback occurs, it’s time to review the solutions to combat it. Given the advancement in modern-day technology, today’s hearing aids are less likely to generate feedback, and if feedback occurs quick and easy solutions exist to fix the problem. To simply put it, we’ve come a long way from the hearing aids your grandparents and parents wore.

Hearing aid feedback and how to prevent it

Choosing an appropriate brand for your hearing loss

With a simple Google search, you would notice there are endless hearing aid manufacturers in the market delivering a promising sales pitch regarding their feedback reduction mechanisms often known as feedback cancellers. Feedback cancellers can work in a variety of ways, the most common is for the feedback canceller to identify and mimic the feedback signal and subtract it from the input resulting in no audible feedback at the speaker of the hearing aid. 

However, not all perform to the same standard or use the same mechanisms when eliminating feedback in the real world. Seeking a hearing aid specialist’s opinion on what is the best device on the market regarding feedback management is crucial for preventing hearing aid feedback. 

At Attune, we are not directly affiliated with any hearing aid manufacturers, which is why we can offer you a wide range of different styles and brands of hearing aids. Our friendly and experienced audiologists will be more than happy to help you find a hearing aid that suits your needs, budget and preferences, starting with a full diagnostic hearing test and diagnosis. Give us a call to make an appointment today

Choosing an appropriate device style and power for your hearing loss

This is the simplest and easiest way to prevent feedback. How to know if you’re choosing the right hearing aid for your hearing loss?  Work with your audiologist to ensure user characteristics such as shape and size of the pinna and ear canal are suitable for your chosen style of hearing aid in addition to hearing loss to reduce the chances of leakage of sound eliciting feedback loop. 

Feedback is often more common for individuals who have a more severe hearing loss or high-pitched hearing loss. This is due to the increase in output of sound from the speaker to provide enough gain to match their hearing loss. To reduce the susceptibility of feedback ensuring where appropriate tight-fitting ear moulds or domes are necessary to provide adequate gain without causing feedback.

hearing aid feedback

How to stop hearing aid feedback

Here are a few points to consider when experiencing hearing aid feedback:

Is your ear blocked with wax? 

When you have hearing loss your prescribed hearing aids can help improve your everyday listening experience. However, hearing aids work by transmitting sound into your ear canal. If you have a significant amount of wax in your ear canal, the sound being transmitted will bounce back into the hearing aid as it has nowhere to go. 

A buildup of wax can cause earaches, interfere with your hearing aid and can cause damage to your hearing aid when left untreated, as it enters and clogs hearing aid receivers and vents. Therefore, it is important to ensure your ears are wax-free where possible and to inspect the hearing aid for any wax build up causing feedback. 

Having a blocked ear can be a serious inconvenience and health risk. Here are five reasons your ears could be blocked and how to unblock them.

Is your hearing aid inserted correctly? 

When your hearing aid is not inserted accurately feedback issues often arise. No need to stress it often just requires reinserting the hearing aid accurately into your ear. This involves ensuring the receiver is further into your ear canal if you have a behind the ear hearing aid or ensuring if you have a custom hearing aid that is fitted tight and not loose. Loosely fitted hearing aids will likely cause a hearing aid to have feedback.

Is your earmold broken? Old or ill-fitted? 

Just like we service our cars hearing aids require servicing. Earmolds, tubes and receivers tend to deteriorate over time and need to be replaced. Upon inspection of tubes you may find they have shrivelled up, bent, changed colour or split resulting in hearing aid feedback. Just as our nose grows over time our ears tend to change shape over time as well. 

This could mean a once perfectly fitting mould/custom piece might now be causing unpleasant hearing aid feedback due to being loose or misshaped. An appointment with your hearing professional will be necessary to eliminate this issue. This is because new impressions for new earmolds/custom shells are required to allow for better-tailored moulds/custom hearing aids to your changed ear shape. 

Is the volume on your hearing aid too high to match your hearing loss?

Depending on your hearing loss the volume you need to be transmitted from the speaker to your ear canal will vary.  However, having your hearing aids set at a very high volume will mean the higher the chances of feedback as the sound is more likely to be picked up again by the microphone and re-amplified, starting a feedback loop. If you are experiencing hearing aid feedback because of the volume you will need to see your hearing aid professional to devise solutions around that. 

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Other reasons why you might be experiencing hearing aid feedback

Are you getting hearing aid feedback every time you cover the hearing aid microphone, bend, sit in small places, hug people or try to wear hats, beanies or scarves? You may have noticed that every time you’re close to a wall or wear your favourite hat or scarves the unpleasant whistling sound returns. What is happening is you’re creating a reflective surface near the microphone initiating a short intermittent acoustical feedback loop. Considering this type of hearing aid feedback is situational the fix is simple. Remove the reflective surface or see your hearing aid specialist see how you can work around it.

If you have reviewed the possibility of all of the above and none is applicable to causing your hearing aids to feedback, then it’s time to see your hearing aid specialist at Attune Hearing as the issue could be an internal hearing aid issue. 

Don’t let the thought of hearing aid feedback deter you from aiding your ears and managing your hearing loss for an improved quality of life. Contact us today to start the journey to better hearing health. Allowing your hearing loss to get in the way of living your best life is now a thing of the past!

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