Why Do My Hearing Aids Echo?

Why it happens, and what can be done about it

So you just shelled out thousands of dollars on fancy new hearing aids, and now they echo — great!

This post is for you if...

  • It sounds like you're talking in a barrel
  • It sounds like you have a head cold
  • Your own voice sounds "booming"
  • Your hearing aids just "echo" too much

This "echo" is a frustrating part of getting new hearing aids.

It may be something you just have to get used to, or it may be something that can be easily resolved.

Why do hearing aids echo?

When your new hearing aids capture sound from your environment, they don't amplify it for you immediately.

First, the sound has to be converted to digital signals.

The digital signals are then processed by a small computer chip inside the hearing aid.

Once the digital signals are processed, they are converted into acoustic sounds—which is what you hear from the hearing aid.

All this processing takes time.

Processing speeds are as fast as 0.5 milliseconds in modern hearing aids, but even that isn't fast enough.

As a result, you may actually be hearing some (or all) sounds, twice.

That is, the first time they naturally occured, and the second time, via the hearing aid amplification.

But processing speed is just one of the reasons that hearing aids may echo.

The occlusion effect

Humor me for a moment.

Use your fingers to plug up your ear canals, and talk for a few seconds.

Notice how your voice got louder, and it sounds almost "booming?"

That's due to the occlusion effect.

When something is placed in the ear, it "occludes" or "blocks" the canal, which causes an elevation in the sound of the hearing aid wearer's voice, and you guessed it— an echo.

Some hearing aids can cause the occlusion effect, but there are a few solutions.

Possible solutions

It's true, you may just have to live with the echo.

But before you resign yourself to that, you should talk to your hearing provider about the following options.

Reprogramming the hearing aids

Most of the time, this problem can be fixed with a few simple tweaks to the hearing aids via the hearing aid programming software.

In fact, this problem is so common that many manufacturers allow hearing providers to fix this problem with just the click of a button.

In most cases, reducing the amount of low frequency amplification is all that is needed.

If you use an app to control your hearing aids, you may even be able to do this yourself.

Most modern hearing aids have apps that allow users to make simple adjustments on their own, from the comfort of their home.

But you've been warned-

Sometimes making an adjustment to fix one problem can lead to others.

The only way to know is to experiment a bit, on your own, or with the help of your hearing provider.

Switching dome styles

Most hearing aids today are worn with what are called "domes," as shown in the image below.

Domes come in all shapes and sizes, and your hearing provider has likely selected the appropriate dome for your hearing loss with great care.

But, if the domes you use look to be the "closed" style, as shown below, you may want to talk to your hearing provider about switching to a more open style.

This will often do the trick.

Closed domes are more likely to lead to echo in hearing aids. For some people, switching to open domes can be a quick and easy remedy.

We have to give the same disclaimer again though-

Changing dome styles can have unintended consequences.

The only way to know is to try!

Modifying the earmold(s), if applicable

If your hearing aids don't use domes, as pictured above, they are probably either custom-made in-the-ear hearing aids, or behind-the-ear style hearing aids which use custom-made earmolds.

In either case, you're more likely than the average hearing aid wearer to complain of the occlusion effect, because these styles of hearing aids simply take up more real estate in your ear canal.

But if echo is driving you crazy, you're not out of luck.

Talk to your hearing provider about options for physically modifying the earmold.

Oftentimes, increasing the vent size or reducing the length of the canal portion of the mold will greatly reduce the occlusion effect.

Curious if this may do the trick for you?

Pull your hearing aids out of your ears ever so slightly.

If the problem is better, chances are getting your earmolds modified or completely rebuilt is the right solution.

If your hearing aids are relatively new (within 45-90 days), your hearing aid warranty may allow you to get this done at no cost.

Try new hearing aids

Processing speeds are always getting better, and as they do, echo from hearing aids gets less noticeable.

If it's been a few years since you've tried hearing aids, you should request a demo from a hearing provider near you— you may be surprised with recent advancements.

New hearing aids, like the model pictured above from Widex, have drastically cut down processing times, leading to a more natural sound quality and less echo.

If all else fails...

You may just have to get used to the echo.

Reducing the potential for echo is something that all hearing providers consider when they fit you for hearing aids.

So chances are, if you've been professionally fitted for hearing aids, and have received in-person service, there's a good chance your hearing provider already considered all of the above options.

Ultimately, you may just have to get used to the echo.

The reality is, almost all hearing aids are going to make the wearer perceive a bit of an echo.

The vast majority of people will get used to this in a short period of time.

And sometimes, what may feel like occlusion, isn't occlusion at all, but merely the effect of improved hearing.

For example, when a new hearing aid user has not heard their own voice at the appropriate volume level in a long time, they may complain that it sounds like an echo or their voice is too strong.

In reality, they're just hearing how they should be hearing, and that takes some getting used to.

A Question For You

Have you experienced the occlusion effect, or echo in your hearing aids?

Do you have any tips or tricks that worked for you?

Please share in the comments below!

Jeff is a California licensed hearing aid dispenser and the President of ZipHearing- one of the largest discount hearing aid suppliers in the United States. Jeff lives in San Diego, CA with his wife and 2 young daughters. You can learn more about hearing aids and watch Jeff on ZipHearing's Youtube channel.

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1 Comments

    Karen Strand

    Reply
    at 9:18 pm

    My audiologist said that the heavy echo was not a hearing aid problem, but was due to damage done to the ear itself. I now think it IS this occlusion effect, and am sending him this article.

    My audiologist said that the heavy echo was not a hearing aid problem, but was due to damage done to the ear itself. I now think it IS this occlusion effect, and am sending him this article.

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