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Why Do My Hearing Aids Squeal?

There are many reasons why hearing aids may squeal or whistle. Tune in to understand why it exists and what to do about it.



Hi, I’m Jim Cuddy and this is Ask The Hearing Doctors. And I’m joined today by Dr. Jenna Valania, doctor of audiology with Hearing Doctors. The Washington DC area’s highest-rated audiology practice with over 1500, five-star reviews. Jenna, as always great to see you. Thank you so much for having me. Absolutely.


So my hearing aids are squealing, why do my hearing aids squeal?


What a phenomenal question that you have, as do a lot of our patients. So sometimes we have patients that they’re just like “I’m sitting at my kitchen table, I don’t hear anything but my wife is hearing this high-pitched squeal” or “I’m sitting there and I’m trying to have a conversation with my husband or my partner and all I’m hearing is squealing as I’m talking”, what is going on? Is this an easy fix? Are the hearing aids broken? Let me tell you the hearing aids are not broken. There are a lot of reasons why the hearing aids could be squealing and the best place to start is by scheduling a quick visit with us.


Okay now are there things that you should be looking out for on your own before maybe you make that visit?


Sure. So the number one reason that hearing aids could squeal is if they’re not in all the way. So what we look at with the squealing and squealing will also be referred to as feedback. So why are my hearing aids feeding back? The best example that I like to tell people is okay, you’re talking with one microphone, your friend is talking with another microphone. You walk too close together and those microphones are interfering with each other and it’s coming out with this big squeal.


Now hearing aids are not squealing as loud as that example but it’s when that sound is leaking out of the hearing aid into the ear canal and then out of the ear canal back up to that microphone that sits on the top of the ear or for those custom products that also sit in the ear. What we want to look at is, okay physically do we have a good fit? Do we have a tight fit? That that sound goes into the ear canal and stays there. That’s something that we/ I always encourage my patients to look at at home. Is okay, I like to have patients take a picture especially if they’re new to wearing hearing aids. Either that I take a picture on their phone for them so that they can look and say okay it’s kind of like a puzzle you gotta match it. This is what it’s supposed to look like at the end. What does it look like right now? Is that a tight fit? That’s number one.


Number two. One of the reasons that we see that hearing aids feedback is excessive wax in the ears. When we have wax build-up, the ear canal really the characteristics of the ear canal change. Sound is not getting all the way down to that eardrum in some cases. So that sound is bouncing off the earwax and leaking back out of the ear. So if we look that okay we have a good fit but I’m still getting feedback, we want to see you for an appointment to take a look in your ears.


Another reason why some patients get feedback is if they have what’s called a behind-the-ear or a BTE hearing aid where there’s a physical tube connected to the earmold. Sometimes they’re cut that could rip um. Or it could be an older tube that needs to be changed. Same reason sound is leaking out and coming back to that hearing aid microphone.


Are there specific types of sounds that are likely to feedback? Say high and low frequencies?


Sure. So a lot of high frequency sounds are what people identify as feedback. So sometimes if patients want more amplification, we turn it up and we get a slight squeal. A really great thing is is Feedback Manager in hearing aids has drastically improved over the years. So in every hearing aid appointment when any adjustments are made or if your hearing aid returns from the manufacturer we want to run a feedback manager or a feedback canceller on the hearing aids.  What that looks like is we put the hearing aids in your ear and the programming of the hearing aid goes through all of the frequencies to identify if any of those specific frequencies are going to emit feedback. If so, it identifies that that is one that could emit feedback and it eliminates it before it’s audible.


Is there ever an instance where that squealing or whistling sound is normal?


The only time that it’s normal is when you’re doing what’s called a hearing aid check. So sometimes I encourage my patients if they’re not sure if their hearing aid is working, to take their hearing aid, put it in their hands and cup it like you’re cupping the top of a microphone. And see if you get that squealing noise. If you do that hearing aid is on and sound is coming out of the hearing aid.


If you go like that and you’re not getting any sound and you normally get a lot of sound in your ear, like if you have a lot of hearing loss. That means that something is clogging up a part of the hearing aid that is causing no sound to come out.


Do you need to have both hearing aids in or can you just do it with a one?


You can just do it with one as long as you can close your hand like this. Then you’re able to identify if that hearing aid is on.


Okay. Jenna, great information. Thank you. Probably relieves some people to know that it’s an easy fix most of the time. Absolutely. Thanks for your time with us. Absolutely. Thank you.



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Dr. Ana Anzola, CCC-A, FAAA, ABA Principal

Dr. Anzola received her Doctorate degree in Audiology (AuD) from the Arizona School of Health Sciences, and her Master’s Degree in Audiology and her Bachelor's Degree in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology from Towson University. She has been a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) since 1995, board-certified by the American Board of Audiology (ABA), and certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).


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