Contributed by Mandy Mroz, AuD, President, Healthy Hearing
Last updated July 26, 2022
Hearing aids are the most common treatment for hearing loss. Millions of people wear these miniature, custom-fit, digitally programmed and personalized hearing solutions every day. If you rely on hearing aids to keep you hearing clearly at all times, you know how important it is to quickly identify and troubleshoot problems.
Common hearing aid issues
The four most common issues hearing aid wearers experience are:
- My hearing aids aren’t producing any sound (or my hearing aids are “dead”)
- My hearing aids aren’t loud enough
- My hearing aids sound “funny” or distorted
- My hearing aids are “whistling” or producing feedback
Troubleshooting steps for these common issues are highlighted below. We ordered the checklists with the simplest fixes at the top. If you’re not able to fix your hearing aids yourself, you may need to see a hearing care professional to find out what to do to get your hearing aids repaired or cleaned.
My hearing aids aren’t producing any sound
- Visually examine the hearing aid. Is there earwax blocking the microphone opening or sound outlet? Carefully clean away any debris. If the hearing aid has visible damage, contact your hearing care provider.
- Make sure your hearing aid is turned on. If your hearing aids are rechargeable, make sure the charging unit is plugged in and you are docking your hearing aids correctly. If your hearing aids use disposable batteries, make sure the battery door is closing correctly. If the battery door won’t shut easily, the battery is likely upside down. Take the battery out, flip it and try inserting again. If placed properly, the door will close easily.
- Turn up the volume with your hearing aid app or directly on the hearing aid. If you have a manual volume control wheel, adjust the wheel up and down a couple of times to make sure it’s all the way on.
- Toggle between the custom programs or memories. If you have a button to change settings, press it and listen for several minutes to see if that makes a difference.
- If the batteries are disposable, it may be time to replace the battery. If you have a hearing aid battery tester, check the voltage of the old battery to confirm it’s dead before activating a new battery by removing the sticker. After you remove the sticker to activate a fresh battery, wait two minutes before inserting them into your hearing aids to allow time for air to activate them.
- Consider whether the hearing aid may be damaged, especially if you got them wet, as most hearing aids are not waterproof. Contact your hearing care professional for further assistance. They may have walk-in hours or same-day appointments for troubleshooting and hearing aid repair.
My hearing aids aren’t loud enough
- Visually examine the hearing aids. Is there earwax blocking the microphone opening or the sound outlet? If you wear a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid style with an earmold and tubing, inspect the tubing to make sure there are no cracks, blockages or beads of moisture. Contact your hearing center if you need assistance replacing the tubing, filters or the domes. They may have walk-in hours or same-day appointments for troubleshooting and repair.
- Turn up the volume with your app or directly on the hearing aid. If you have a manual volume control wheel, adjust the wheel up and down a couple of times to make sure you can hear the volume changing.
- Try a different program or memory. You may have accidentally switched to a different program that is set differently than your usual program.
- Consider whether your hearing may have changed. If it’s been a while since your last hearing evaluation, you may need to schedule a hearing test with your hearing care professional. They may be able to adjust your hearing aids to accommodate any changes to your hearing ability.
My hearing aids sound “funny” or distorted
- If you have removable, disposable batteries, inspect the battery contacts. These are the little metal prongs that connect with the battery when the door is closed. Are they corroded? If so, open and close the battery compartment several times to clean the contacts. Then replace the battery and see if the sound has improved. Your hearing care professional can also clean the battery contacts for you. Do they appear to make contact with the battery? If they are oriented correctly to make contact, you are likely to see very faint scratches on the surface of a used battery.
- Try a different program or memory. You may have accidentally switched to a wireless setting meant to be used with an assistive listening device.
- Consider whether the hearing aids may be damaged. Contact your hearing care professional for further assistance. They may have walk-in hours or same-day appointments for troubleshooting and hearing aid repair.
My hearing aids are “whistling” or producing feedback
- If your hearing aids are whistling while in your ears, remove them and try re-inserting them. They may not be inserted properly.
- Turn down the volume. If the hearing aids are properly inserted and they stop whistling when you turn down the volume, there may be too much sound leaking out through the vent or around the earmold. You may need to have the fit adjusted by your hearing care professional.
- If you think your ear canals may be blocked with earwax, see your hearing care professional or physician to have your ears cleaned thoroughly. This blockage could be causing feedback in two different ways:
—You turn up the volume higher than normal so you can hear through the earwax, leaking out more sound than usual, or
—Sound can bounce off any blockage in your ear canal and leak back out.
- If you have recently lost a considerable amount of weight, the fit of your hearing aids may have changed. Your hearing care professional can evaluate the new fit and determine whether they can fix the issue in the office or if you need to have your hearing aids or earmolds remade.
- If you wear a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid style with an earmold and tubing, check the tubing to ensure that it’s fully connected to the hearing aid and the earmold, and to see if the tubing has become brittle, hard or cracked. Any of these issues can lead to feedback. If it has, contact your hearing care professional for a tubing replacement.
When to call in the professionals
If you’ve tried these troubleshooting tips and your hearing aids still aren’t working, see a hearing healthcare professional for assistance. They may be able to fix the issue in the office on the same day. If one or both of your hearing aids need factory repairs, your hearing professional can take care of that for you as well. If that’s the case, ask your hearing care provider about the possibility of lending you a “loaner” hearing aid until yours comes back from repair. Many offices have this service available.
Dr. Mandy Mroz earned her doctorate in audiology from the University of Florida. Mandy’s career is guided by her dedication to serving people with hearing loss and her past experience in hearing research, training and management. Read more about Mandy.