Sound is distorted

I have just been fitted with my first hearing aids, and have been using them for just over a week. They are Starkey 7 S series ITC. I am not sure what the correct term for the problem is so I will describe it

Instead of hearing a clear tone I hear it distorted. Like a brrrrrrr instead of the pure tone. I notice it particularly at higher frequencies. But, it is there all the way through.

What is the correct term for this please?
Is this the way digital hearing aids are supposed to sound? If not, what should I be asking the audiologist to do?


Could be internal cochlea distortion. Your aids won’t totally fix this problem. Maybe more compression will help (reduce the dynamic range). You might want a aid with fast acting limiting and fast compression like the Oticon Agil. Ed

Thank you.

Without hearing aids I hear the sounds very clearly with no distortion whatsoever. They are well within the frequency range that is pretty good for me. So, when I take a piece of music, ideally classical where the sound has not been “engineered” and listen to it with and without my aids the difference is very noticible. In speech a prolonged “aaaaaah!” will come through with a noticable vibrato also.

If internal cochlea distortion is present would I likely be aware of it without hearing aids?

When properly fit, a quality pair (and yours are a quality pair) of digital hearing instruments should sound “natural.” This is a good description of the experience that was recently posted to this forum:

“Distorted” is probably a good enough description to get the person you’re working with started. We’re used to getting really vague descriptions of problems from our clients and successfully working with them! On a day to day basis the most common description I get is that they’re “broken” from which I then have to ask a series of questions to figure out how exactly they’re “broken.” Saying they’re “distorted” is a very good start!

1 Like

I received a Starkey Destiny CIC for my left ear in April 2009. Although I could hear better some higher tones sounded distorted and not clear. I just thought it was how hearing aids sounded (it was my first). I was told the brain has not heard those tones very well in a long time and it would take some time for the brain to adjust. I haven’t thought about it in months but high musical notes are now crystal clear. I’m not exactly sure how long it took to get “clear” but I would guess a few months. I was recently fitted with a Rexton Insite for my right ear and I’m going through a similar thing with that one.

I’m still struggling with the distortion. I have been to my audiologist twice now, and she has not made any discernable improvement. My brain does not seem to have adapted. I really believe that the distortion is in the hearing aids and not in my head!!

In an attempt to identify the problem for myself, I found a tone generator on the web and using tones at different frequencies I hear them as being steady notes - with just my ears. However, when I put the aids in my ears the distortion is there and is horrible. I notice it first at about 174.61Hz (F below middle C). It becomes very noticable at 440 Hz (B below middle C) and from then up it is very intrusive. The modulation does not change as the Hz increase. It is not pleasant to listen to music with the aids in.

I am not sure that my audiologist is familiar with this product. Is there anything that I can suggest to her please?

I am not an audiologist. The question I have is whether the distortion goes away if you lower the volume of the tone you are listening to when using the aid. Distortion is a produt of the total sound output i.e. the input plus the amplification are too loud for the aid to produce cleanly. If reducing the input provides a clean output then the problem is that to amplification for that frequency needs to be reduced or compressed.


First have a professional listen to the aids with a special stethescope to acertain if the problem is in the aids.

Most likely the distortion is in your cochlea or ossicles. As hearing degenerates, the dynamic range (softest to loudest with clarity) is markedly reduced. Called Recruitment.

Also keep in mind that any standard aid (WDRC) will produce artifacts when hit with a sustained tone because it thinks the tone is feedback and attempts to null it.

That’s why a dedicated music program reduces or eliminates feedback correction. Ed

This is a common problem, with a similar question posted almost every week.

As noted above, pure notes are being interpreted by the hearing aids as a feedback whistle.

Search this forum for ‘entrainment’.

I had this problem with Phonak Excelia Arts. The clinician agreed to call in the Phonak tech rep to do the adjustments (I appreciated that very much). The Phonak tech rep fixed it very quickly. She said that “entrainment” occurs due to a number of conditions which she called “a perfect storm”: length of your ear canal, quality of the ear molds, adjustment of the hearing aid. She also said that “entrainment” occurs in a small number of cases, and not all clinicians will have seen it often enough to know how to work around it.

So, perhaps if your clinician would ask the ha manufacturer for technical support, you might find some relief.

Yes, it is true that one’s brain needs to adjust. However, trying to adjust to this unnatural “entrainment” sound is brutal! It is exhausting, distracting and mentally stressful. I wish you the best in getting rid of this.

Lace Nerentola
(and yes, I should post my hearing test results. Hmmmm…give me a minute…)

I remain confused. I thought entrainment was different than a set of aids interpreting a sustained note as feedback and attempting to correct for it. Because in my case the Excelias do this distortion on each and every noise, whether ‘held’ or not. Also, another poster mentioned recruitment as a possible cause…which makes zero sense to me because the odd distortion I get with these aids is ONLY these aids…not my old ones. Plus, recruitment makes us hear things fuzzily and/or too loudly…so how could this odd, voice-in-a-fan quality be from recruitment? It doesn’t seem to me that the posters asking about distortion in their aids are describing anything close to recruitment.

“Voice in a fan” Thank you that exactly describes what I hear.

Frankly, I am sceptical. I would be very glad if someone could put me straight. At this time I really believe that it is something deffective in the design.

The “receiver” (strange name for something that outputs sound) emits sound. I can’t think of any valid reason as to why it would pick it up!

If the cause is sound bouncing about in my ear canal then that would not be specific to hearing aids. If I buy a $10 cheap FM radio and use the ear buds, the sound is crystal clear. Why would B.B King sound great on the $10 radio and terrible on the $3,700 pair of hearing aids?

I’m not in the slightest bit convinced yet.

Disagree with this.

It can occur under variety of conditions: it’s not a ‘perfect storm’ it’s a function of the feedback canceller coping with the end of amplified tones.

All clinicians ARE aware of it and most would even know how to deal with it. you basically have the option of living with it, occluding the ear further, increasing the effect of the feedback manager or re-modelling the gain to avoid it at certain frequencies.

Hi GeoffA: I responded because I’m a musician and my aids start distorting at the same frequency you mentioned above. I obtained a partial solution when my audiologist called the factory technician for my brand and made a few adjustments (compression, etc). However, you might want to check out articles by Dr. Marshall Chasin about hearing music through hearing aids. Most of the modern designs are not really built for music/musicians but rather for speech environments and finding a fix through adjusting the software can be a real challenge. I don’t know if your audiologist explained the difference in sound characteristics of different aid configurations ( BTE, RITE, etc.) but this could have an impact on distortion as well. Good luck.

This makes absolutely no sense. What you’re saying, essentially, is that the hearing aid is interpreting everything that makes a sound as feedback? Each and every noise is distorted in the same way, whether loud or soft or held or staccato.

After hours with my hearing guy, and another hour or two on the phone with Phonak audiology reps, the distortion persists.

If you’re right, Um Bongo, and the distortion is due to each and every sound being mistaken for feedback? Then there is a serious problem with the technology.

This is far out: Is it possible your new aids are somewhat louder than the old ones. If so the problem could possibly be your ears. Rarely some people’s hearing system goes non-linear at a particular loudness.

Try cutting the gain way down and see if the distortion dissapears. Also obviously be sure all your batteries are current dated and fresh. CHECK AND MAKE SURE THE MAX OUTPUT ADJUSTMENT IS NOT MISADJUSTED AND IS CLIPPING (MPO). Ed

Hello, Banjo: Are you still out there? I am trying to find hearing aids, or adjustments, that allow me to get my music back. I do understand that ha’s are adjusted to capture the human voice. However, the “music” programs just seem to take all the filters off and allow all sounds to pass. Is there a better way? Adjustments? Earphones? Buying a certain music system / earphone combination? Anything? Thank you so much.