Why Do Hearing Aids Whistle? 5 Tips To Avoid It

Hearing aids whistle or make squeaking noises when the hearing aid produces a sound that gets picked up by the microphone of your hearing aid. Then the same sound gets amplified again. This is called feedback. There are several reasons why this happens. In this article, we will learn about the reasons and how this could be fixed.

When I talk about feedback problems with hearing aids I talk about the device already positioned in the right spot in your ear. Before it is positioned correctly it is normal for your hearing aids to produce whistling sounds. When it lays on a table or right before placing the earpiece in the ear canal the hearing aids usually pick up a sound, reamplify the sound again, and then you have a whistling.

The reasons why you have whistling sounds are the following:

  • Leakage in the tube that connects the hearing aid and the ear piece
  • The ear piece has a leakage
  • Ear wax is reflecting the sound coming out of the ear piece from your hearing aid

So as you can see the explanation why your hearing aids are whistling is rather simple. Fixing this issue has more facettes and in some cases needs a little more adjustments and clearing up.

A Poorly Fitted Hearing Aid

When the part of the hearing aid actually fits good but when you talk or eat the whistling sounds come up the ear piece is poorly fitted. When you move your lower jar oftentimes your ear canal also gets deformed a little.

As you can imagine with an earmold whether it was made custom or with a little silicone dome everything moves a little in combination with the ear canal. Of course a little leakage could form with this movement and some sounds could escape through this leakage and get picked up by the microphone again.

In order to fix this, the custom earmold could be made with a cavity right where the lower jar sits on the ear canal. This oftentimes reduces the movement and improves the fit. In order to improve the fit with a silicone dome or when the custom earmold modification did not work well the earpiece could be fitted deeper into the ear canal.

The outer part of our ears is softer and can move. Deeper inside the ear canal it gets bony, the movement will be eliminated. This should be discussed with your hearing aid specialist as he or she may change the earpiece in order to fit it deeper in your ear canal.

The benefit of fitting the earpiece deeper into the ear canal is when you use a behind-the-ear hearing device the distance increases from the microphone to the earpiece. This makes the whistling sound less likely.

Design of Domes or Earmolds Is Too Open

The part of the hearing aid which is placed in your ear can be designed to be very clogged up, with cavities or holes in it. When the hearing loss is on the lower a very open approach can work great. Because when your hearing loss is low the hearing aids volume in a special frequency is also low. So a sound in this range will probably not leave your ear canal.

But as you can imagine with severe hearing loss the hearing aids volume needs to be set to a much higher level. This however makes it more likely sounds leave your ear canal and get picked up by the microphone again. The solution would be to really block the sound from getting out of your ear with a clogged-up earmold or dome.

When you do not like the sound of a very closed earpiece especially in regards to your own voice special molds like a nugget can improve the sound of your own voice.

Changing the dome or custom earmold often requires a new adjustment of the hearing aid. In most cases, it is the better approach to make the earpiece less open. Because high amplification can still reach your eardrum.

There is also a possibility for your hearing aid specialist to use a feedback manager to eliminate the whistling. This option is available in the fitting software and reduces the whistling noises in a matter of seconds effectively. When this option is clicked the hearing aid listens to the sounds produced by itself and reduces them if necessary.

But in most cases, this comes with a big tradeoff. All the feedback manager does is reduce the volume of a certain frequency in order to reduce whistling.

This can make your hearing aids less effective because you may understand less in a conversation because of the lower volume with certain frequencies.

Broken Parts of the Hearing Aid

In some cases, a broken part of your hearing aid can lead to feedback. Some devices have tubing and others have cables and the in-ear ones have just the mold. But when the feedback suddenly comes up the hearing aid should be inspected carefully. 

Imagine the tubing is broken and now a little hole is formed. Of course, this means this leakage can lead to sound escaping out of the tubing. And then it gets picked up again by the microphone and we have feedback.

But in other cases, this may not be so obvious. The internals of hearing aids have little chambers and carefully bedded parts so no feedback is produced. But when some of the internals break the parts may be out of position or not enclosed anymore. In most cases, a broken part can be easily replaced by your hearing aid specialist to fix the whistling.

Too Much Ear Wax

The needed sound does not move straight to your eardrum. It actually bounces off the surfaces in your ear. With an excess amount of earwax, the sounds of your hearing aid can be reflected and produce feedback.

Your hearing specialist will be able to remove the ear wax and with it the feedback.

5 Tips To Avoid Feedback With Your Hearing Aids

When there are whistling sounds going on while your hearing aids are inserted the following checklist should be worked through in order to find the reason for the whistling sounds.

  1. Check your ears for excess amount of earwax
  2. Inspect your hearing device if the shell of the ear mold, the tubing or the hearing aid device behind your ear looks broken.
  3. Change silicone domes to another shape – usually there are multiple available for every hearing aid.
  4. Get a properly fitted custom ear mold.
  5. Place your palm near your ears with the hearing aids inserted and check with your hearing aid specialist if the fit may cause feedback.

As you can see there are plenty of options to reduce feedback. If you hear it or some family member told you about it just call your hearing aid specialist, acoustician, or audiologist. It is fairly easy for them to fix whistling noises.

I wish you a great day.

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