Understanding Hearing-Aid Feedback and How a Digital Device Can Help You

If you are an older adult who has been using a traditional analog hearing aid for many years, then you may be comfortable with the way the device works. The aids can be adjusted fairly easily, and they can be hidden directly in the ear. However, if your hearing aid has not be functioning the way it should, and you are finding yourself in situations where you cannot hear well, then it may be time for a digital hearing aid. There are a few obvious signs that it may be time for a more sophisticated and technologically advanced device. One of these signs is feedback. Keep reading to learn why an analog aid produces feedback and how a digital device can reduce the sounds.

Why Does an Analog Aid Produce Feedback?

If your hearing aid produces a whistling or a high-pitched squealing noise, then you should know that this is feedback. Your analog hearing aid will be constructed in a way so that the speaker sits inside the ear canal and the microphone sits on the exterior of the aid. The microphone pulls in sound waves, and then the sounds are amplified. The speaker then releases the amplified sounds into the ear canal. If the hearing aid is loose and there are openings between the aid and the outer ear canal, then the microphone will pick up the sounds that come out of the speaker. These sounds are amplified, and then the noises are released from the speaker again. This creates a loop that produces high-pitched sounds. Hearing aids can become loose for several reasons. The ear canals are flexible and will stretch out. They will also open when you bite down, and they shift slightly when you swallow or talk. 

Some hearing aids will also be constructed with vents on the side. These vents help to reduce something called the occlusion effect, with which individuals hear unnatural echoes of their voice vibrating through their head. Booming and hollow noises may also be heard. The vents reduce this issue with small holes in the aid that allow a bit of sound to move around the edges of the aid. The vents are also able to keep pressure from building in the ear and causing inflammation problems.

Unfortunately, if you have a serious hearing deficiency and your aid needs to be turned up loud, then the vents can allow noises to escape and be picked up by the microphone. 

How Does a Digital Aid Reduce Feedback Issues?

Most digital hearing aids are larger than analog varieties. While this may minimize your options when it comes to the look of your aid, this can greatly reduce feedback issues. Digital hearing aids are typically around the ear varieties. This allows the processing part of the unit to sit behind the ear while the speaker sits just in front or inside the ear canal. The microphone and computer chip make up a large portion of the processing unit, and these parts of the device are too large to fit in the ear. While the hearing aid will be more visible, this helps turn the speaker away from the microphone so feedback does not occur.

Digital hearing aids also must convert noises into digital signals. These signals are processed by the computer chip inside the hearing aid. This chip will be programmed to complete a number of different tasks as it processes the information, much like your home computer. These tasks include the amplification of tones in a way that meet your hearing needs. Background noise may also be reduced, and the aid will identify feedback.

When the aid identifies feedback, it will significantly reduce or eliminate the high-pitched sound channels that create the noise. Not only will this keep you from hearing the sounds, but it will stop the feedback loop from continuing and creating the offending noises. 

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