Feedback is a high-pitched sound that is most often caused by a microphone picking up the same sounds as it’s putting out which causes it to malfunction. This could also manifest as a whistling sound when hearing aids are concerned. Either way, this is a frustrating situation to be in, and the best course of action is to start with some troubleshooting for hearing aids before running to your audiologist.

Here are the troubleshooting steps to follow for hearing aid issues of a whistling sound or feedback.

  1. Check that they are inserted properly.

If you are using in-the-ear or in-the-canal hearing aids that are all one piece, you are more likely to have problems with feedback or whistling sounds. This is because the microphone and receiver are much closer together in these models which makes feedback more likely.

The first thing you want to check is that the hearing aid has been inserted properly in your ear. If it isn’t positioned correctly, then it could be allowing for feedback simply because the microphone and receiver are not aligned the way they’re supposed to be.

Another reason that proper insertion is important is that there may be gaps between your hearing aid and your ear which can allow outside sounds to come in on their own which can lead to the whistling sound. For this reason, if you hear a whistling sound or are experiencing feedback, be sure to first remove the hearing aid and then carefully reinsert it so that it’s in the right position.

  1. Try turning the volume down.

The second most common cause of feedback or whistling sounds in hearing aids is that you have the volume up too high. This is when the microphone is most likely to pick up the sounds being put out by the receiver and cause feedback to occur. For this reason, a simple lowering of the volume may be all it takes to get your hearing aids to stop producing a whistling sound.

  1. Check your ears for blockages.

Sometimes, your ears can become blocked with too much earwax and other debris, and this can cause feedback in a couple of different ways. Firstly, since you can’t hear as well with the blockage, you may be turning up the volume higher than usual without realizing it. The reasons for higher volumes causing feedback can be found in the previous troubleshooting point.

The other reason blockages can cause feedback is that the sound being put out by the receiver has nowhere to go, and so it bounces off the blockage and into the microphone, creating that whistling sound. Have someone else take a peek inside your ears to see if there is a buildup of earwax, then clean out your ears thoroughly.

If you have too much buildup of earwax, it may be time to have your ears professionally cleaned out. Your hearing center can help you with this, and will make sure that your ears are completely free of waxy buildup so you can hear better and feel better.

  1. Consider that it may be tinnitus.

If you’ve gone through this troubleshooting list and haven’t been able to solve the problem, consider that you may have developed tinnitus or have worsening tinnitus. Tinnitus is more commonly known as a ringing in the ears and is something that many people with hearing loss are also suffering from.

To check to see whether you have tinnitus, ask someone else if they can hear the whistling sound or simply remove your hearing aids, turn them off, and see if the sound persists. If you can still hear the sound or if others cannot hear it, then talk to your audiologist about tinnitus. Although it’s not curable, there are treatments to make it manageable.