“Dr. Parker, can you please help this person in the waiting room? That feedback sound is driving everyone crazy!” This comment came from my assistant the other day. I quickly finished up what I was doing and called the patient back.
What causes feedback?
Well, feedback for hearing aids happens just like the feedback at church — basically the microphone and speaker are too close together. In other words, when the sound is picked up by the microphone and then amplified and then released through the speaker, some of that amplified sound might get picked up again through the microphone. That sounds is the “eeeeeee” sound you hear. You can make your hearing aid whistle by cupping it in your hand. (Note: the hearing aid must be turned on and have a good battery inside.)
Feedback happens for a reason
It is your audiologist’s job to figure out the cause and treatment for it. Specific causes for feedback with hearing aids includes: excessive ear wax, cracked or broken tubing, incorrect insertion of your hearing aid, a bad physical fit of your hearing aid (too loose in a certain place), too much volume at certain frequencies or pitches, or sometimes an internal problem inside the hearing aid. My advice to my patients is that feedback should tell you that 1) your battery is working great; 2) your hearing aid is not in your ear correctly. If your hearing aid still whistles after these things are considered, then you need to see your audiologist to see what is causing feedback.
Ears change over time
For many users, their ears actually get bigger on the inside of their ears. After a few years, their hearing aids fit smaller and looser than what they had when the aids were newer. Occasionally I will recommend to a patient to consider new technology rather than having their older hearing aid repaired, because ears change and feedback can occasionally be a greater problem after the repair than before due to how the aid fits in their ear and the dated technology.
Occasionally we still have problems with feedback even with new technology. However, it is not the problem it used to be.
Today’s hearing aids can provide more power with less feedback than ever before
Different companies manage feedback differently, and that affects patients’ hearing.
In my patient’s case, her feedback was the result of too much wax in her ear. Once this was removed, the problem was solved and she was thrilled to be able to hear again. Her family was even happier that they did not need to listen to that annoying sound. Next time you hear “eeeeeee,” consider the possible reasons, and then call your audiologist for help!