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  • Writer's pictureDavid Engelman

When Hearing Aids Go Wrong: Common Hearing Aid Problems

Updated: 6 days ago


Woman frustrated with her hearing aid problems.

Hearing aids are great little devices that can help make your life a lot easier.  While hearing aids won’t eliminate all hearing challenges, people who wear hearing aids will find that they are putting much less effort into listening and communicating with others.  This will especially be the case for people who wear their hearing aids on a consistent basis and follow a few recommendations to maximise the benefit that hearing aids can provide.  A great starting point for these recommendations would be this previous blog article found here.  However, hearing aids are not without potential problems and complications.  If you wear hearing aids yourself, or have spoken to someone who does, then you may already be aware of this.  Many of these problems have relatively simple solutions though, and I therefore would like to outline the top five issues that I encounter when working with my hearing aid patients. These problems will then be covered more in depth in future articles as part of a series, so be sure to subscribe to our blog to stay updated, by submitting the form at the bottom of this page. 


1)      Hearing Aid Whistling


A whistle, to demonstrate hearing aid whistling.

Hearing aid whistling is what we refer to in audiology as “feedback”.  This is sound from the hearing aid leaking out of the patient’s ear, and then getting reamplified, which causes a high-pitched whistle.  It is normal for a hearing aid to do this if something is physically covering the hearing aid or getting very close to the hearing aid—you may notice a whistle if you cup your hands over your hearing aids.

 

There are several likely causes behind hearing aid whistling.  This can include a loose-fitting hearing aid (causing sound to leak out of the ear canals), or excessive earwax (causing sound to bounce off the wax).  If you are certain that the hearing aid has been inserted properly into your ear and you are still noticing a lot of whistling, it is worth contacting your audiologist.  They can check your ears for wax and make amendments to the physical fit of the hearing aid, if required.  There are also some fine tunings that may be necessary to ensure the hearing aids aren’t whistling.

 

2)      No Sound

 

Mute button, symbolic of a hearing aid not working.

A surprisingly common problem that can occur with hearing aids is that no sound at all is coming from them.  In other words, the hearing aids just don’t seem to be working at all.  There are quite a few different possible reasons for this, and most have simple solutions which you often can easily fix yourself.  The hearing aids may have become blocked with earwax—this can especially be the case if your hearing aids are fitted with special wax filters as these can easily clog up and will need to be replaced.  Another likely culprit of a dead hearing aid is that the microphones have become covered with dirt, dust, and debris. Sometimes, the problem is as simple as the battery being dead or put in the wrong way around.  Lastly, we of course cannot rule out the possibility of a hearing aid that is indeed faulty and needs to be either repaired by the audiologist, or be sent away to the manufacturer for repair.

 

3)      Poor Hearing Aid Fit


Tape measure, symbolic of hearing aid fit.

Sometimes the hearing aids may not fit quite right in or on your ears.  They may be either too loose and easily falling off your ears, or perhaps are causing discomfort or even pain.  If the hearing aids are too loose this can cause feedback (the “whistling” sound described above) and can also degrade the overall sound quality of the hearing aids.  If they are too tight or bulky for your ears, then this can cause soreness and irritation.  Sometimes a poor hearing aid fit can be due to improper insertion of the hearing aids—meaning you may need to be shown again how to wear your hearing aids correctly, and practice this with your audiologist.  Other times, the sizing of the hearing aid will need to be altered, and if custom moulded to your ears, the hearing aid may need to be remade with a new impression of your ears and be sent back to the manufacturer to ensure the problem is resolved.

 

4)      Sound Quality Issues

 

VU meter, representing the sound quality of a hearing aid.

Another common concern with hearing aids is their overall sound quality.  This is where the hearing aids are working as such, but the patient may find the sound quality to be unsatisfactory or unacceptable.  This usually manifests in a few different ways.  Common concerns are that the hearing aids may sound either “echoey” or “tinny”.  Often one’s own voice can sound quite loud or “hollow”.  Sometimes people may feel that the hearing aids amplify all the distracting sounds they don’t want to hear, and not enough of the conversation they do want to hear.   In many instances, these sound quality issues are a matter of taking time to adapt and adjust to how a hearing aid works and sounds.  However, sometimes alterations need to be made to the hearing aids, either physically or via fine tuning of the hearing aid programming, to improve their sound quality.

 

5)      Bluetooth Connectivity Issues

 

Mobile to demonstrate Bluetooth connectivity issues with hearing aids.

The ability for hearing aids to connect to mobile phones and other devices via Bluetooth has become commonplace nowadays and can have lots of benefits.  This can include streaming phone calls into your hearing aids, using an app to control your hearing aid settings, or connecting to hearing aid accessories that can help you with a variety of things, such as watching TV.  However, these Bluetooth connections can be glitchy at times, and your hearing aids may occasionally lose their Bluetooth pairings.  If you are comfortable with troubleshooting common mobile phone issues, this can usually be easily remedied without any audiological know how.  I typically recommend deleting (“forgetting”) any previous hearing aid pairings in your phone, and then starting the pairing process again from scratch.  It can also be a good idea to restart your phone before beginning this pairing process, and to also restart your phone on a regular basis.  If you are having problems with your hearing aid app, then you may need to delete the app and reinstall it before trying to pair your hearing aids to the app again.


Conclusion 


I hope that this article helps to outline and explain some of the more commonly occurring hearing aid problems.  While not an exhaustive list, I do find that most hearing aid issues will fall into one of the above five general categories.  For a more detailed explanation of these problems and their solutions, I will be writing individual articles for each of the above issues, so stay tuned for these to be published.


If you'd like to learn more about the kind of hearing care we provide for our patients at Finchley Hearing, please explore our website and feel free to get in touch with any questions.


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