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Updated: 30 Jun 2021

Hearing-aid problems

The most common hearing-aid problems explained, plus tips on what to do next.
Which?Editorial team
Hearing aid close up 434578

It takes time to get used to hearing aids, but there are often steps you can take to reduce ongoing niggles.

In our 2020 survey of 1,572 Which? members and other adults with hearing aids, the three most common problems included:

  • the sound quality not being right (eg too many much background noise)
  • the aids always getting blocked up with wax
  • the hearing aids not making enough of a difference to hearing.

For the best chance of avoiding problems with your audiologist, check out our review of the best hearing aid providers.

My hearing aids haven't restored my former hearing

Sadly, no hearing aid can fully restore your hearing to the way it was originally - damaged hair cells in the cochlea don’t regenerate. But evidence shows that hearing aids can significantly improve your quality of life and interaction with others.

You may need to persevere to get the right aids, correctly fitted and programmed, and adjust to them. This can take time and repeated visits. On average, it takes a month to get used to hearing aids as, without you realising it, your brain will have adapted to your hearing loss.

Most people find that everything can initially sound loud and strange through the hearing aids, so you need to wear them as regularly as possible to adjust to the sound.

Check out our guide to getting used to hearing aids for more information. RNID also has an information line on 0808 808 0123.

My hearing aids are uncomfortable

If you experience any discomfort when using your hearing aid, it may be that you haven’t fitted it correctly in your ear. Alternatively, it could be that the audiologist needs to make an adjustment, such as the way it fits in your ear or altering the length of the tube.

Arrange a follow-up appointment so they can take a look and see what the problem is.

My hearing aids are more visible than I expected

Hearing aid lifestyle 1

If you get NHS hearing aids, you might get earmoulds, or less-visible open-fit hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss. This will depend on your needs, but you're likely to get a wider choice if you buy privately.

However, you may be disappointed if you think buying privately means getting an invisible hearing aid, as these are only suited to people with mild to moderate hearing loss. Only 6% of private buyers in our survey got an invisible hearing aid.

If you have more severe hearing loss, you’ll probably get better results with a behind-the-ear model with earmoulds than an in-the-canal model. A hearing aid that sits completely in the ear canal might look less obvious, but would be unlikely to give good results.

Hearing aids have become smaller and smarter looking, and even come in a range of colours. They've also become lighter and more comfortable to wear. If you'd like a coloured hearing aid, ask the audiologist which ones are available. If they don’t have that colour in stock, they’ll need to order it from the manufacturer, so there may be a short wait. Earmoulds also come in a range of colours and patterns.

My hearing aids are whistling

Whistling and squeaking noises are caused by feedback, when the sound amplified by your aid leaks out and gets picked up by the hearing aid's microphone. There are many reasons it may happen, including the aids being positioned incorrectly or not fitting snugly enough, the volume being too high, or excess ear wax or an infection.

Talk to your audiologist about this, and they should be able to get to the bottom of the problem.

Hearing aid test

Hearing-aid complaints

First steps if you're not happy

Whether you have an NHS or privately bought hearing aid, your first step is to discuss your concerns with the audiologist. A lot of the problems listed above can be easily resolved.

If you're experiencing technical problems with your hearing aids, keep notes of what's happening over several days, and note the environments in which the problems occur. If you’ve bought your aids privately, keep track of the trial period and try to resolve issues during this time.

How do I complain about my hearing aids?

If your problems are not resolved, keep a detailed account of correspondence and documentation. 

For NHS hearing aid complaints, your first step is to talk to the hearing-aid service manager of the audiology department. If this doesn't resolve the issue, you can make a complaint in writing, clearly highlighting all your concerns. If the complaint is still not resolved to your satisfaction, you can use the NHS complaints procedure to take it further.

If you've bought your hearing aid privately, your first step will be to talk to the audiologist or the company you bought from.

How do I complain about my audiologist?

If you have concerns about the professional competence of a private audiologist (hearing-aid dispenser), you'll need to refer your complaint to the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC). By law, anyone offering to test your hearing and sell you hearing aids on the high street must be qualified, or in supervised training, and registered with the HCPC.

The HCPC regulates training, skills and conduct, and investigates complaints about private audiologists. It can caution or suspend an audiologist from the register if an investigation deems this appropriate.

If your complaint is about the sales process or the goods you've bought, check whether the audiologist/company is a member of the British Society of Hearing Aid Audiologists (BSHAA), as it operates a no-cost, independent customer-care scheme. You could use this if you're not satisfied with the outcome of your complaint to the company.

Using the Consumer Rights Act 2015

You also have rights under consumer law, as you do for any product you buy. For example, if a hearing aid doesn’t work because it’s faulty, you could claim under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which states that such products must be of satisfactory quality.