Hearing aids are a necessary part of life for thousands of children with hearing losses throughout the United States. Since children as young as four weeks of age may receive hearing aids, these patients are often too young to maintain and troubleshoot hearing aids on their own. If your child is one of these you'll need to run a performance check on his or her hearing aid each day. This will help you become accustomed to its normal behavior so you can easily detect when something strange is going on. One common problem is a feedback loop, which often manifests as a whistling sound (or alternatively a howling or chirping sound). Desperate parents sometimes turn the volume way down in an effort to control this sound, but unless the feedback was caused by high volume in the first place the problem will continue to recur until you solve it. Here are four steps to troubleshooting a feedback problem with your child's hearing aid.
1. Check the position of the device.
You'll become an old pro after a few months of inserting your child's hearing aid. Just at first, though, it can be tricky to get the position just right every time (especially if your baby is squirmy). In addition, your child may bump against things in a way that slightly dislodges the device and sets it out of alignment. Incorrect positioning can cause a feedback-related whistling sound, so try removing and re-inserting the device as a first troubleshooting step.
2. Check for earwax.
If your child has a buildup of earwax, this may be blocking his or her ear canal. Such a buildup deflects sound waves back towards the hearing aid, causing a feedback loop. Check your child's ear canal for ear wax to determine if this may be causing the problem. If not, proceed to step 3.
3. Check that the microphone isn't covered.
A hat, scarf, or blanket around your child's head may be pressing against the microphone. Or your child may be leaning against a wall or the side of a car seat. Either of these situations can interfere with the correct functioning of the microphone. Try moving any suspect clothing or repositioning your child so he or she is leaning on the opposite side of where the device is installed.
4. Check condition and size of earmold.
You can check whether the earmold is causing the feedback problem by detaching it from the hearing aid and listening again to see if that stops the sound. If so, the earmold may have become incorrectly connected, damaged in some way (cracked, for example), or simply too small for your child. When young, children may outgrow their old earmolds in as little as 2–3 months.
These five steps will help you find the cause of most feedback problems with your child's hearing aid. If none of these steps seems to resolve the issue, contact your audiologist, one like Hear Ear Hearing Aids, for professional advice.