Among the best options for promoting greater independence and improving your quality of life is a hearing aid. However, like any tool, they only work when they are in your ears and performing according to design. Many frustrated patients end up tossing their hearing aids in the junk drawer along with their other unused gadgets because they can’t get them to work correctly. Getting my patients to stick with their hearing aids and receive the critical help they provide is one of my most significant challenges as an audiologist. As a means of encouragement, here is a list of common hearing aid problems along with simple troubleshooting tips.

Wearing Discomfort

Just like glasses and braces, hearing aids take some getting used to. Although modern devices are lighter weight than their predecessors, any localized weight or pressure, which your body is not used to, will cause discomfort. Help your body to adjust by wearing your hearing aids as long as you can each day, but take periodic breaks to let your body rest. Those who wear two hearing aids need to make sure that the unit designed for the left ear (labeled with a blue mark) is in the left ear, and the one intended for the right ear (labeled by a red mark) is in the right ear. Ongoing discomfort (a week or more) could mean an error inadequately forming or fitting your hearing aid to the contour of your ear, which means that your provider will need to do a refitting.

Uncomfortable Sounds

When you had no hearing assistance from a hearing device, your brain got used to processing muffled sounds. The amplified sounds provided by your hearing aid produce a painful shock to your brain. When amplified, the sound of your own voice and background noise will cause discomfort. Sticking with your hearing aids allows your brain to adjust to the amplification of sound. In the long-run, the discomfort will decrease. Taking periodic breaks and reading aloud can help shorten your adjustment period.

Whistling or Squealing

Whistling or squealing are uncomfortable sounds you should never get used to because they are indicators of several hearing aid performance issues. These noises are equivalent to acoustic feedback associated with poorly adjusted sound equipment. Troubleshooting feedback issues include:

  • Reposition the unit in your ear. Early on, I teach my patients to use a mirror to ensure proper insertion until it becomes second nature.
  • Decrease the volume on the device. When repositioning does not work, the issue could be that the volume of the unit is causing system feedback.
  • Adjust your hair and clothing. When your hair, scarf, hat, or some other item is touching the microphone, it can contribute to feedback issues as well.
  • Check for cracks and loose connections. Cracks, loose connections, and other damage to your hearing aid can also cause feedback issues. Bring your unit into our office, and our tech will fix the problem.

No Sound

This is a very common issue with many of my patients early on because they are still adjusting to new hearing aids. Rather than becoming frustrated, work your way through this checklist to identify and fix the problem.

  • Is the unit turned off? Turning the unit off, when adjusting the volume on a new hearing aid, is a common problem. Check to make sure it is on.
  • Is the volume too low? When the volume is reduced past a certain point, you will not hear any amplification and assume that it is not producing sound. Adjust the volume until you receive the amplification you expect to hear.
  • Is there wax or other debris blocking the microphone or receiver? Frequent examination and clearing away of these unwanted substances will allow the unit to function as designed.
  • Does the battery have sufficient charge? Without enough power from the battery, your hearing aid will produce no amplification. Newer models will need recharging to fix this problem while replacing the battery will provide the remedy for older models.

Hearing aids improve your quality of life when they are in your ears and functioning as designed. I encourage my patients to educate themselves on how to troubleshoot their hearing aids so that they can provide the help you need. The Berkeley Hearing Center team and I are always available to provide help adjusting to your hearing aids, helping you troubleshooting them, and/or fixing them when the need arises. Contact us to receive troubleshooting tech support from our experts, or request a callback from Berkeley Hearing Center to answer your questions or to set up an appointment.

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Jessica Muscio Traylor Audiologist

Jessica Muscio Traylor Audiologist

Dr. Traylor earned her B.A. degree in Spanish and communicative disorders and her M.S. degree in audiology in 2005 from San Francisco State. She began practicing at an established audiology private practice in Oakland immediately after graduation. Dr. Traylor went on to earn her doctorate in audiology in 2010 from Salus University in Pennsylvania while continuing her private practice work. In 2011, she took a position at Herrick Hospital, diagnosing & treating hearing loss and balance issues. In 2016, Dr. Traylor joined the Berkeley Hearing Center team.