3 Ways Hearing Aids Can Malfunction


Man having troubles with his hearing aids while trying to communicate with his friend.

Have you ever been watching your favorite Netflix show when your internet suddenly cuts out? Instead of finding out who won the baking show, you have to watch an endless spinning circle. And so you just wait. (Maybe it’s your modem, could be your router, possibly it’s the internet company–or maybe it’ll just fix itself.) It’s not a great feeling.

Technology can be enormously frustrating when it doesn’t work properly. The same is certainly true of your hearing aids. Most of the time, your hearing aids will provide you with the means to stay connected to loved ones, have conversations with co-workers, and keep up with your neighbors.

But when they stop working, your hearing loss symptoms can suddenly become much more frustrating. The technology you’re counting on has let you down. How do hearing aids just stop working? So what should you do? Well, there are three common ways that hearing aids can malfunction–here’s how you can start to identify and troubleshoot those issues.

Three common issues with hearing aids (and some possible solutions)

Hearing aids are complex devices. Even still, there are some common issues that people with hearing aids may encounter. Here’s what might be causing those issues (and what you can do to fix them).

Whistling and feedback

So, maybe you’re trying to have a conversation with your family or watch your favorite television show and you start to notice a horrific whistling sound. Or maybe you notice some feedback. And so you think, “Why do I hear whistling in my hearing aids? This is strange.”

Whistling and feedback can be caused by these possible issues.

  • Your hearing aids may not be sitting in your ears correctly. Try removing them and putting them back in. You can also try turning the volume down (if this works, you might find some temporary relief, but it also likely means that the fit is indeed not quite right and you should talk to your hearing specialist).
  • For those that wear behind-the-ear hearing aids, the tubing that connects your earmold with your hearing aid may have become compromised. Try to inspect this tubing as well as you can and make sure nothing is loose and the tube does not appear damaged.
  • Earwax buildup in your ear canal can compromise the way your hearing aid works. (You’ll notice this comes up pretty often.) That includes making the sounds of your hearing aid cause whistling or feedback. If possible, you can try clearing some earwax out of your ear, or talk to your hearing specialist about the best way to do that (do not use a cotton swab).

If these issues are not easily resolvable, it’s worth talking to your hearing specialist about adjusting the fit–or sending your device in for maintenance (depending on what your hearing specialist thinks the root cause of that whistling or feedback may be).

Hearing aids not producing sound

Your hearing aids are supposed to make, well, sound. That’s their primary function! So if you find yourself thinking, “I can’t hear any sound in my hearing aid,” well, then something is certainly wrong. So what could be the cause when hearing aids work but no sound comes through? Well, there are a couple of things:

  • Earwax buildup: Yup, earwax strikes again. Inspect your device for signs of earwax on the microphone or speakers or any sensitive bits. You want to make sure the device is nice and clean.
  • Batteries: If you have rechargeable batteries, make sure that they are fully charged. And whether your batteries are rechargeable or not, it might be worth switching them out for new ones.
  • Power: Look, we’ve all forgotten to turn the hearing aids on before. Make sure that’s not the issue.
  • Your settings: If you have them, cycle through your custom settings. It’s possible your hearing devices are on the wrong custom program (so maybe your hearing aids think you’re in a gymnasium instead of around the kitchen table). This balance could throw off the sound you’re hearing.

If these steps don’t address your issues, your hearing specialist may have the answers. They’ll be able to help you identify the next steps–and whether maintenance, repair, or replacement is needed.

Painful ears while you’re wearing your hearing aids

What if your hearing aids work perfectly–but every time you put them in your ears, your ears start to hurt? (And you’re probably thinking: why do my ears hurt when I wear my hearing aids?) This kind of discomfort is not exactly conducive to wearing your hearing aids over the long term. So, what could be causing it?

  • Fit: The most obvious problem can be the fit. After all, most hearing aids work best when the fit is nice and snug. Which means that there can sometimes be discomfort involved in a poor fit. Many hearing aids can be tailored to your specific ears. The better the fit, the fewer issues you’ll have with discomfort over the long run. Your hearing specialist will be able to help you get the best possible fit from your devices.
  • Time: Sometimes, it just takes a little while to get used to your hearing aids. How long will depend on the individual. It’s worth talking about when you purchase your hearing aids so you have a realistic idea of how long it may take you to get comfortable with your devices. If uncomfortable ears persist, talk to your hearing specialist about them!

Avoid issues with a little test drive

One of the best ways to avoid possible issues with hearing aids is to take them for a bit of a test drive before you commit. Many hearing specialists will let you try out a set of devices before you decide that’s the pair for you.

In fact, your hearing specialist will likely help you determine the best type of hearing aid for your needs, adjust the fit to match your ears, and help you manage any ongoing issues you may have with your devices. In other words, when your devices stop working, you’ll have a resource that can help!

And that’s probably more reliable than your internet company.

Find a provider today!

Want more information?

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