Woman holding ear because her hearing aid isn't working.

Your hearing aids don’t sound right despite the fact that you recently changed the batteries. Everything seems muffled, distant, and just a little off. It’s like you can’t hear the full sound you’re supposed to be experiencing. When you research the situation, a low battery appears to be the most likely reason. Which annoys you because you keep the batteries charged every night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t really hear their conversation. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact situation. You may want to check one more possibility before you get too aggravated about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Home in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids reside under typical circumstances. Even when you wear an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for ideal performance, other models have been designed to be positioned directly in the ear canal. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is positioned.

A Shield Against Earwax

Now, earwax does lots of great things for the health of your ears (many studies have demonstrated that earwax actually has anti-fungal and antibacterial attributes that can help prevent various infections). So earwax can actually be a positive thing.

But the interaction between hearing aids and earwax isn’t always so good–the moisture in earwax, particularly, can impact the normal operation of hearing aids. Fortunately, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid manufacturers and earwax doesn’t usually move in unpredictable ways.

So a safety feature, known as wax guards, have been put in place so that the normal function of your device isn’t impeded by earwax. And the “weak” sound might be caused by these wax guards.

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a little piece of technology inside your hearing aid known as a wax guard. The idea is that the wax guard lets sound to pass through, but not wax. So that your hearing aid can keep working effectively, a wax guard is indispensable. But there are some instances where the wax guard itself might cause some issues:

  • A professional clean and check is required: At least once per year you should have your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to be certain it’s functioning correctly. You should also think about getting your hearing examined on a regular basis to be certain your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • You have an unclean hearing aid shell: When you’re switching your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be correctly cleaned as well. If earwax is clogging your hearing aid, it’s feasible some of that wax could make its way into the inside of the device while you’re changing the guard (and this would obviously hamper the function of your hearing aids).
  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for a while: Like any other filter, sooner or later the wax guard will no longer be able to adequately perform its job. A wax guard can only be cleaned so much. When cleaning no longer does the trick, you may have to replace your wax guard (you can buy a specialized toolkit to make this process smoother).
  • You have replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Every model and maker has a different wax guard. If you purchase the wrong model for your specific hearing aid, your device’s functions may be diminished, and that could result in the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) upkeep routine. As with any filter, a wax guard can eventually become clogged with the exact thing it’s been tasked with filtering out. Every once in a while, you’ll need to clean the guard or the wax caught up in it will start to block sound waves and mess up your hearing.

Make sure you use the included instruction for best success with your wax guard.

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

You should observe substantially improved sound quality once you change your wax guard. Hearing and following conversation should be much better. And that’s a real relief if you’ve been aggravated with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s undoubtedly a learning curve with regards to maintaining any complex device such as hearing aids. So just keep in mind: It’s probably time to change your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is weak even with a fully charged battery.

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