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  • Writer's pictureDavid Engelman

Why Is My Hearing Aid Not Working?

Updated: 6 days ago


Man putting hearing aid into ear.

People rely on their hearing aids to help them communicate and stay engaged with their surroundings.  It can therefore be a very frustrating problem if one or both of your hearing aids are not working.  A dead hearing aid can temporarily impair your hearing even more that it already is, as it can essentially become like an earplug in your ear.  If either you or perhaps a loved one notices that your hearing aids don’t seem to be working, it is important to get to the root of the problem.  Fortunately, in many cases a dead hearing aid can be easily resolved.  This article will look at some of the most common causes of a broken hearing aid, and what can be done to help. 


a)       Clogged with Earwax


If you use either a receiver-in-canal (RIC) or in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid, then it will most likely have what is commonly referred to as either a “wax filter” or “wax guard”.  This is usually a very small ring inside the receiver of the hearing aid that has a fine mesh that serves as a filter, to prevent earwax and other debris from getting further into the hearing aid.  This can become quite easily blocked even by a small amount of earwax, and effectively render your hearing aid as “dead”.  If your hearing aid uses wax filters, you will usually be given these at your hearing aid fitting and shown how to replace them.  Replacing the filter will often instantly resolve the problem of your hearing aid not working.  Different hearing aid models and different hearing aid manufacturers will use different filters that often may look similar, but it is critical that you use the correct one.  If you’re not sure which filter you need, it is best to double check with your audiologist before potentially using the incorrect one. 


If you use a behind-the-ear (BTE) style of hearing aid (common on the NHS, and often used for more severe hearing losses in the private sector), then the tubing that the sound travels through may have become clogged.  The tubing also hardens over time, which also will affect the hearing aid’s sound quality.  Like the wax filters described above, BTE hearing aid tubing can and should be replaced regularly. 


b)      Too Much Wax in the Ears


Apart from earwax clogging the hearing aid receiver, you may also simply have too much earwax in the ear itself.  If the wax is completely blocking the ear canal, this essentially acts like an earplug in the ear, and will make it seem as if the hearing aid is not working. Excessive earwax build-up can also cause your hearing aids to whistle.  If you suspect this may the case, your audiologist can check your ears for occluding wax, and in many instances, will be able to remove it for you as well.


c)       Microphone Ports Clogged


Hearing aids make use of very small microphones to amplify sound.  These microphones will be embedded inside a tiny port within the body of the hearing aid itself.  These ports can become clogged with dirt, dust, and general debris which can cause the hearing aid to not work.  You can use a very small brush (your audiologist may be able to supply you with a special hearing aid brush) to gently clean these ports out.  If the microphone ports are quite significantly clogged, then your audiologist may be able to use their equipment to suction it out with a fine needle vacuum.  Additionally, if you use an in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid, these are sometimes fitted with filters to protect the microphone ports.  This has a similar function to the wax filters described above and may need to be replaced from time to time. 


d)      Faulty Receiver


The receiver is the speaker of the hearing aid.  In a receiver-in-canal (RIC) hearing aid, the receiver is made up of a thin wire leading up to the actual speaker, which then sits inside the ear.  The receiver is sensitive to moisture and debris, and can occasionally “short out”, thus making it sound like the hearing aid is not working.  The receiver of a RIC hearing aid can typically be replaced by your audiologist in the clinic and will instantly resolve the problem you may have been having.  If you are using an in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid, then the receiver will be built into the hearing aid body itself and will not be able to be replaced in the clinic.  This would need to be sent to the manufacturer for a repair.


e)      Battery Issues


Hearing aid battery issues can be one or more of a few different possible problems.  If you use a hearing aid operated by a replaceable battery, then it may seem obvious, but it is always worth double checking that the battery isn’t just dead and needs to be replaced.  Occasionally, you can get a “bad pack” of batteries, where an entire pack of batteries are faulty.  Another common occurrence is when the battery has been placed into the hearing aid incorrectly.  The positive side of the battery (the flat, shiny side) should be facing up when you put it inside the battery compartment.  If you use a rechargeable hearing aid, then it is worth double checking that the hearing aids have been fully charged, and that they are being inserted into the charger properly (different hearing aids will be inserted into their respective chargers in different ways).  The rechargeable battery itself does occasionally need to be replaced as well.  This can be done by your audiologist.  There can also be a fault with the hearing aid where it is draining the battery excessively—in other words, the batteries are dying much more quickly than they should.  This will usually require the hearing aid to be sent back to the manufacturer for a repair


f)        Faulty Hearing Aid


Apart from the problems described above, we of course cannot rule out the possibility that some of the internal components of the hearing aid, such as its amplifier, have malfunctioned.  Like any piece of technical equipment, this is more likely to occur as the hearing aid gets older, but this can also happen with relatively new hearing aids.  If your audiologist is unable to diagnose and resolve the problem in the clinic, then the hearing aid will need to be sent to the manufacturer for further investigation and repair. 


Conclusion


While not an exhaustive list, this article discussed some of the most common culprits behind a hearing aid that is not working.  If you do discover one of your hearing aids to not be working, I would first advise that you ensure the battery has been replaced and inserted properly (or that the hearing aid has been charged up properly).  Then, try replacing the wax filter.  If there is still no sound coming from the hearing aid, then it may be time to book an appointment with your audiologist so that they can try and determine what the problem may be and resolve it.


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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