Is that a bird I hear?
This is probably one of the biggest problems we deal with for hearing aids. Feedback, whistling, birds singing, whatever the user or person sitting near them perceives it as – it is annoying for everyone involved. There is however some reasons why this happens, and keeping it from happening is a form of art.
Whistling happens when the sound coming out of the hearing aid (which should go into your ear) is escaping back to the outside of the ear and being picked up again by the hearing aid. The tricky part about feedback is that we want the hearing aid to make the most snug fit as possible without feeling too bulky, causing irritation, or otherwise making the patient want to take them out. This “just snug enough” fit is very important to allowing us to program the device to meet your hearing loss and in some instances can take multiple adjustments to get right.
Also, many products now have feedback management meaning that if the hearing aid does begin to feedback the chip in the hearing aid recognizes that feedback and stops it. The problem is that the only way to stop the feedback is to essentially cut the sound that the hearing aid is giving, therefore taking necessary sound away from the patient. Feedback management is a good thing however, when feedback management must come into play too often, the patient loses hearing benefit.
Other conditions that might make a hearing aid whistle can be:
- Our ear canals can also change slightly in shape with weight loss or weight gain which will affect this fit.
- If there is a buildup of wax in the ear canal, a hearing aid that normally did not whistle can begin to do so.
- User error! Being as we are in the business of hearing aids, the act of inserting a hearing aid is second nature to us as well as many of our patients who have used hearing aids for years. However, that is not the case for all patients. If a hearing aid is not seated in the ear properly, feedback can occur. Counseling on the proper insertion of a hearing aid is important.
Now, you might be saying that this seems like a lot that can go wrong… and we would partially agree! Hearing aids are much more than the actual device itself and getting this fit right to start with is very important. Our philosophy for avoiding these problems is to do everything right from the first place and provide our patients with a regular return routine so we are always staying on top of any issues, including the issue of feedback, and providing the maximum hearing correction at all times.