When your hearing aid whistles, it can not only degrade the quality and clarity of your instruments sound, but it can be very embarrassing!
Before we talk about how to fix feedback, let me quickly go over a few things that might cause your hearing aid to whistle:
Causes of Feedback from Hearing Aids
- Wax – a blockage of earwax in the ear canal can reflect the sound back to the mic, causing feedback
- Aid is Pointed Wrong – If the mold is pointed incorrectly the sound can bounce back to the mic
- Broken Speaker Tubing – The speaker tube is damaged or disconnected from the mold
- Loose Fit – Hearing aid mold is too loose allowing excessive sound to escape from the ear to the mic
- Improper Component Placement – Speaker or microphone is touching another internal component
- Hearing Aid Style – Amplification needs for hearing loss are outside your hearing aids fitting range
Steps to Diagnose the Problem
Step 1 – Check for Wax: The first step is to check with your audiologist or hearing aid dispenser for earwax that may be causing the feedback. It’s the most common cause and easiest to fix. If wax is the issue, you can follow the steps in our hearing aid cleaning guide to help. If not, then we can start diagnosing
Step 2 – Speaker Tube Check: Begin by examining the end of the hearing aid closely to see if the speaker tubing has been dislodged from the mold. If the speaker tubing has fallen inside the hearing aid mold, then it should be taken to your local dealer for repair, or sent to the hearing aid repair shop of your choice. If everything looks okay, then move on to step 3.
Step 3 – Internal Feedback Check: This step may require someone without hearing loss. Hold the hearing aid turned on with the volume up, being careful not to cover the microphone. Place your finger over the speaker (at the tip that is inserted into your ear). Push tightly for a good seal.
If you or a helper can hear the aid whistling with the speaker covered, then there is probably an issue inside the hearing aid causing internal feedback. This could be two internal components touching, a whole in the vent, or the speaker could have fallen off of the tubing inside the aid. Again, this should be taken in for repair. If everything checks out fine, continue to step 4.
Step 4 – Proper Fit Check: Now it’s time to test for a fit issue, which is something that many times can be fixed at home. Test for a fit problem by pushing on the hearing aid with your finger or a pencil eraser while it is in your ear. Make sure you don’t cover the microphone when you do this. If the feedback stops and you can still hear with your aid while the whistling is gone, then it is most likely a fit issue.
Fixing the Issue – Fit Problem
The Vent Plug Fix
If it is a minor fit issue, plugging the vent with putty or tape will sometimes stop the whistling. The vent is the air tube that runs from the outside of the hearing aid all the way through to the tip. You should see one vent hole at the bottom near the battery compartment (not the mic!) and the other side comes out on the tip, right beside the speaker hole.
Place some sticky tack or tape over the outside end of the vent. You should avoid placing on the side by the speaker as the plug could come off the aid in your ear.
If this does the trick, then you’re done, although it could again become an issue as your ear continues to change.
Note: although most hearing aids have a vent, some do not.
Comply Soft Wraps
There are foam wraps for hearing aids that can stop feed back from a loose fitting mold. Just go to google.com and search for “comply soft wraps” to find an online retailer, or click this link that will automatically search Google for Comply Soft Wraps.
Just wrap the foam around the hearing aid and you’re done. The wraps should come with detailed instructions.
Polishing Things Up – The Fingernail Polish Fix
If the hearing aid is loose, a coat of clear (or colorful!) fingernail polish can tighten it up enough to stop the feedback.
Start by cleaning the hearing aid with a dry tissue, or a tissue slightly dampened with rubbing alcohol to remove and dirt or oils from the hearing aid.
After cleaning the hearing aid, apply a thin coat of fingernail polish around the canal (Make sure you stay away from the components like the speaker, mic, volume control, and battery door!). Start with a very light coat – it usually doesn’t take much.
Once the fingernail polish has completely dried give the hearing a try. If the feedback has stopped, you just repaired your hearing aid! If feedback is still present, repeat with another thin coat of fingernail polish.
Taking a Bite Out of Feedback – The Denture Strip Fix
One not-so-pretty, but effective feedback fix is denture adhesive strips. Simply take a piece of the strip and mold it around the aid for an extra seal. They can be easily removed later.
Starting Fresh – The New Mold Fix
If none of these work for you, or you just aren’t comfortable making some of these modifications to your hearing aids, the best option may just be to start fresh. Have your local audiologist or hearing aid dispenser take a new impression of your ears and put a new shell on your hearing aid.
If they tell you that your hearing aids are too old and try to sell you new ones, you can find your own hearing aid repair shop that is willing to work on all hearing aids. We recommend Hearing Haven for hearing aid repair, but you can also go to Google and search for “hearing aid repair”.
Dead Behind-the-Ear Hearing Aid Repair (BTE)
If your behind the ear hearing aid is dead or weak, the first step is always to replace the battery, just to make sure it isn’t a bad battery. Next, you will want to make sure hearing aid isn’t plugged with wax or debris.
Start out by visually inspecting the end of the mold, the tube, and the ear-hook. If there is a visual blockage, clean with compressed air or BTE floss and see if it works.
If there is no visual blockage, or you have already tried cleaning the tubing, remove the ear-hook from the hearing aid. This is usually done by unscrewing it, although some models pull off. Refer to you hearing aids manual for instructions.
Once you have the ear-hook removed and a good battery inserted, turn the hearing aid on set to maximum volume.
Cup the hearing aid in your hand and listen for feedback. This may require someone without a hearing loss. If you or an assistant can hear the hearing aid whistling (or whistling stronger in the case of a weak hearing aid), replace the ear-hook and ear mold and cup the aid in your hand again with it turned to full volume.
But If you can’t hear the feedback (or not as strongly for a weak diagnosis) with the ear-mold and ear-hook attached, try removing the ear-mold. If there is feedback with the ear-mold removed and the ear-hook attached, or if the strength of the feedback increases, then there is something obstructing the sound in the tubing or ear-mold. A good cleaning with compressed air through the tubing or BTE floss should do the trick.
Last Ditch Effort Repair
If there is still no improvement with only the ear-hook attached, then the obstruction is in the ear-hook. It may be as simple as cleaning it, but some behind the ear hearing aids have an acoustic filter built in.
The acoustic filter may be in the tip of the ear hook where the ear mold connects, or further up, inside the ear hook.
If the filter is on the tip, it is usually a metal screen. You can first try cleaning the screen by soaking the ear-hook in rubbing alcohol for 15 minutes and then drying it with compressed air. If this does not work you can poke a hole in the screen with a needle.
This will allow the sound to go through, but will also slightly increase the high pitch frequencies. This shouldn’t be a problem unless your ear-mold doesn’t fit well; in this case it is possible that it could cause feedback.
If your ear-hook has a filter further up inside it made from cotton or plastic, you can remove the filter by pushing it out with a piece of fishing string. Like poking a hole through the metal filters, this also slightly increases the high frequencies and may cause feedback if your ear mold does not fit correctly.
If you have tried all of these options, and your hearing aid is still dead or weak, it may be time to try a professional hearing aid repair lab.
Dead In-the-Ear Hearing Aid Repair (ITE)
If your “in the ear” hearing aid is dead, the first step is always to replace the battery, just to make sure it isn’t a bad battery. Next, you will want to make sure hearing aid isn’t plugged with wax or debris.
Begin with a visual inspection of the tip of the ear-mold, that’s the part that you insert into your ear. If there is a visual blockage, use your earwax cleaning loop to remove the wax. Hold the tip angled down to avoid any earwax or debris falling into the receiver (speaker). Insert the loop at the edges of the tube and pull it out.
If there is no visual blockage, or if you have already tried cleaning the tubing move on to the next step. Start by opening the hearing aid’s battery compartment and inspect the contacts on the inside edges. You should see two gold battery contacts, one on either side. They usually look like an arch with a thin arm connected to one side, and positioned horizontally through the middle. The arms can get bent sometimes, to the point where they no longer touch the battery.
Using your wax loop again, you can gently pull the horizontal arms inward, toward where the battery will go. Place the loop behind the tip of the arm on the end that is not connected to the arch. Now gently pull it inwards, toward the battery compartment.
Don’t pull too much, just enough to ensure contact with the battery without blocking it from closing properly. Repeat this process on the opposite side battery contact as well.
Places to Get Your Hearing Aid Fixed
If your hearing aid still doesn’t function after these steps it may be time for a professional hearing aid repair lab.
You have basically two options if you need to get your hearing aid repaired, some of which can have rather frightening results:
1. Take it to a Hearing Aid Dealer or Audiologist
If it is just plugged with wax or something similar, they may be able to fix it there. Often, if it cannot be repaired there, and they will recommend one of the following three choices:
A. They will most likely advise you to buy a new set of hearing aids. This is what their business is.
B. They may send it back to the original manufacturer. This is sometimes the best solution, however, the cost is usually the highest using this option. Unfortunately, many manufacturers only repair their own hearing aids for a period of 5 to 7 years, after which they will no longer fix them. This reduces the costs of keeping parts inventory, as well as a way to encourage you to buy new hearing aids!
Also, many hearing aid companies have either gone out of business or been acquired by another company in the last few years, and the people who are now repairing your hearing aid may not be the same people who built it.
C. Send it to an independent all make repair lab. This may be good, or it may be bad, depending on which repair lab they use. A “budget” repair lab gives them a great wholesale price, but often gets used parts from salvage hearing aids, and hires inexperienced technicians.
Some of the large, well known repair labs pay their technicians just a few dollars per repair at a “piecework” rate, encouraging them to quickly repair as many hearing aids as they can per day.
2. You can choose to send it directly to the repair lab of your choice
If your local hearing aid dispenser cannot get your hearing aid working at their store, you may be better off leaving with your broken hearing aid and making your own choice as to where to send it. This gives you several advantages:
A. You can research and locate a repair lab you feel comfortable with.
B. You can get your repair done for less by avoiding the retail mark-up. (If the retail charge is the typical $200 or more, you can usually save at least 50%. If the retail charge for a repair is lower than that, it is possible that it would be sent to a “budget” lab that cuts corners and lowers quality.)
C. You can ship your hearing aid to Hear Rite, the sponsor of this web site. At $97 for most repairs, they are getting more than most repair labs would receive for a wholesale repair, and so they can spend more time and use new components for a proper repair. Their repair technicians have many years experience with multiple brands, and have been factory trained.
Every technician is paid a well-deserved hourly rate, so there is no pressure to rush to complete a job. In fact, since the mission of Hear Rite is to provide quality hearing aid repair at an affordable price, each repair includes “preventative” maintenance steps to insure longer life of the hearing aid.