Updated: Apr 24
The feedback, screaming or whistling noise heard from the hearing aids is one of the obstacles for some of the wearers. It is annoying and embarrassing.
In my opinion, no hearing aid should whistle, period. There is no exception. If they do, then they need to be sorted. But first, let's see what are the reasons that your hearing aids may whistle.
The issue of the feedback is often because of a problem or a change in the acoustics of the fitting of your hearing aids. By acoustics I mean the combination of your ear canal, the way the hearing aids are positioned in the ear canal, the depth, and the seal between the dome in the RIC or BTE models, or the earmould in custom ITE or ITC models. A poor seal or escape of too much sound from your ear canal can be picked up by the super-sensitive microphones of your hearing aids and this feedback would saturate the amplifiers in your hearing aids. It is very similar to keeping a karaoke mic in front of the speaker.
Here are some common reasons why your hearing aids whistle:
Placement - If the little speakers (we call them receivers) of your RIC hearing aids are not well placed in your ear canal some of the amplified sounds could escape out and you will hear it as whistling. This is a common issue in first-time users of hearing aids. Remember that your ear canals are in and up, with a little tendency towards the back. The best technique to get the little speaker deep inside your ear canal is to wiggle it in until you feel that the connection wire to it nicely touched your skin. If you see that the wire is not sitting on your skin this is a sign that the little speaker is not fully in.
Ear wax - A build-up or a blockage of ear wax is one of the reasons why hearing aids might whistle. The presence of a substantial amount of ear wax would build an acoustic surface that can bounce back the amplified sound out of your ear canal. The result is whistling. Solution: See your audiologist for an ear wax removal procedure (we only recommend microsuction).
Foreign object - Same as item 1 above, the presence of a foreign object could cause feedback in your hearing aids, hence whistling. Solution: See your audiologist for a removal procedure.
Poor-fitting - Lack of proper fitting could cause poor sealing of your ear canal hence the feedback. Some common scenarios are: the receiver wire length is too short causing the receiver pulled out of your ear canals frequently, or the domes used for fitting are too small or if they fit right have lost their elasticity, so they don't make a good seal, or they are too big and do not allow the receiver to go deep enough in the ear canal, or you needed earmoulds instead of domes in the first place, or the earmould has cracks, or the earmoulds need to be silicon instead of acrylic, or your earmoulds do not fit very well and need to be retaken. Solution: Visit your audiologist to checkup the fitting.
Change in your hearing loss - Natural deterioration of the auditory system in humans is very gradual. In some cases, you may experience drops in your hearing thresholds bigger than their natural deterioration (e.g. because of vascular problems). In such a case you may have been trying to increase the volume of your hearing aids in order to hear louder and better. Some of the extra volumes that you wish to get out of your hearing aids may find their way out of your ear canal and here we go, feedback again. Solution: If you feel that your hearing has gone lower, or it's been more than 18 months since the last hearing test, or you feel you need to increase the volume of your hearing aids in order to hear naturally, guess what? It is time to visit your audiologist.
Weight loss - I have seen some patients face feedback problems with their hearing aids right after a massive weight loss. The weight loss could be intentional or because of a health issue, nevertheless, a weight loss could diminish the seal and fitting of the hearing aids. Solution: Please visit your audiologist for a revisit at the fitting of your hearing aids.
Improper adjustment - In the fitting session, your audiologist has been looking into the feedback control option of your hearing aids. But for different reasons, the feedback control may have been left switched off. If your audiologist looks at every option to optimise the acoustics of your hearing aids and still there is residual feedback then he or she may decide to switch on the feedback control algorithm. This software trick will reduce the feedback at certain frequencies. Solution: Visit your audiologist to check up on the acoustics and the fitting of your hearing aids.
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