Troubleshooting Tips for Your Hearing Aid

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on September 25, 2023
4 min read

New hearing aid? Or one that seems to be on the fritz? A few problems are common with these devices, especially if you’re wearing one for the first time. Don’t worry -- there are usually simple ways to fix these issues.

When you first wear new hearing aids, you may feel some itching or tickling inside your ears, but they shouldn’t hurt. If your ears feel sore inside, try these steps:
Make sure you use the correct hearing aid for each ear. The device for the right ear usually has a red mark, while the device for the left is marked in blue.

  1. Place a dab of hearing aid gel or lubricant at the entrance of the ear after you remove your hearing aids each night. These products relieve dry skin and itching. But first, check with your audiologist to make sure you choose one that’s safe for your style of hearing aid.
  2. If you notice a sore spot or general discomfort that doesn’t go away in a few days, your audiologist may need to change the shape of your hearing aid or ear mold.

If you wear a behind-the-ear hearing aid, and the top of your ear is sore, try these steps:

  1. Place a strip of moleskin on the underside of the device, where it rests on the top of your ear.
  2. Ask your audiologist about changing the length of your tubing or receiver wire.

Most modern hearing aids have automatic feedback cancellation, but you might still get a whistling sound sometimes. To avoid it:

  1. Don’t lean your ear against a pillow or cover it with a hat or scarf. That can trap sound from the hearing aid and cause it to re-enter the microphone.
  2. Place the tip of the hearing aid or ear mold securely inside the ear. Feedback is more common when the tip is not in the right position.
  3. If you have a volume control, keep the setting near its default. Feedback can happen when you turn the sound up too high.
  4. Ask your audiologist or your doctor to check your ears and, if necessary, remove any wax buildup.

If you’ve already replaced the battery, and the device still isn’t working, follow these steps:

  1. Open the battery door and check that the battery is right side up. The flat side with the “+” should be facing up. Close the battery door completely to turn on the device. Also, check your battery packaging to make sure they’re not expired.
  2. If your hearing aid has an “on/off” button, switch it on. Ask your audiologist if you’re not sure whether your device requires this step.
  3. Check the tip of your hearing aid for wax or debris. If the opening where the sound comes out is blocked, the device may not seem to turn on. Brush away visible debris with your cleaning tool, and check your manual to learn how to change your wax filters.
  4. If your hearing aids have tubing or wiring, check for cracks or tears. Your audiologist can usually replace these parts in the office when needed.

When you wear hearing aids for the first time, your audiologist may program them below your prescription strength to give you time to adjust. After you wear them regularly for a few days or weeks, you might notice the sound doesn’t seem as loud or as bright. That’s a sign that your brain is getting used to the sounds, and you’re ready for a boost in volume. It may take a few visits with your audiologist to get the right settings.

If you’ve already been wearing your hearing aids at your prescribed level, and the sound becomes dull, put in a fresh battery. If that doesn’t help, check the opening where the sound comes out. Remove visible debris with your cleaning tool and change your wax filters. If you have tubing, it may need to be changed.

The goal of hearing aids is to help you hear all the sounds of speech. To do this, the devices may boost high-pitched sounds that you haven’t heard in many years. This can make the crinkling of paper or the hum of an air conditioner seem annoying, but it also lets you hear birdsong and the letters “f” and “s.” Most people adapt to the new sounds in a few months, so give yourself time. But if the sharpness keeps you from wearing your hearing aids regularly, see your audiologist for an adjustment. 

Also see: Do hearing aids have side effects?