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What causes hearing aids to whistle?

Question

I just recently bought my first pair of hearing aids and I’ve been overjoyed with the results they’ve given me. I literally had nothing bad to say about them until the other day when my friend told me to watch out for whistling because it could become a problem. A couple days later I noticed the noise she was talking about, and now I’m wondering if they will do this all the time? Is there a way to stop this from happening? What causes hearing aids to whistle?

Answer

The whistling noise associated with some hearing aids is acoustic feedback. The amplified sound from the hearing aid is being heard by the microphone of the hearing aid. This is just like you can sometimes get when people are performing live and a loud whistling is heard from the speakers. The sound is going round and round in a loop from the speaker to the microphone.  Hearing aids should not whistle in normal use and in the first instance you should contact your hearing aid audiologist. It is perfectly normal for hearing aids to whistle if you cup your hand around the aid as the sound is trapped. Many people do this to check their hearing aids are on or that the battery is still good. Most hearing aids these days have a feature that cancels out the feedback noise digitally without reducing the amplification. If your ears become blocked with wax then they are more likely to whistle and if you suspect this is the case then call your hearing aid audiologist and do not try to remove the wax yourself.

Author: Paul Harrison

Date: Tuesday 8th January, 2013

Published in: Hearing Aid Questions

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