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

You just changed the batteries, but your hearing aids still don’t sound right. 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 try to diagnose the problem with a simple Google search, the most probable answer seems to be a low battery. Which annoys you because you charge the batteries each night.

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

A Home in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, usually. Even when you use an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. Other versions are manufactured to be placed in the ear canal for best efficiency. Wherever your hearing aid is positioned, it will encounter an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does some important things for the health of your ears ((many infection can actually be avoided because of the antibacterial and anti-fungal properties of earwax, according to many studies). So earwax is not a negative thing.

But hearing aids and earwax don’t always get along quite as well–the moisture in earwax, especially, can interfere with the standard 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 protective component, called wax guards, have been put in place so that the normal function of your device isn’t hampered by earwax. And the “weak” sound may be caused by these wax guards.

Wax Guard Etiquette

A wax guard is a small piece of technology that is integrated into your hearing aid. The idea is that the wax guard lets sound to go through, but not wax. In order for your hearing aid to keep working properly, a wax guard is indispensable. But issues can be caused by the wax guard itself in some situations:

  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for some time: Just like any other filter, eventually, the wax guard will no longer be able to effectively perform its task. There’s only so much cleaning that can be done to a wax guard! You might need to get a new wax guard when cleaning no longer works (you can purchase a special toolkit to make this process smoother).
  • A professional check and clean is needed: In order to be certain that your hearing aid is functioning properly, it should be cleaned once every year. And in order to be certain that your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to get your hearing tested regularly.
  • You’ve replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Every model and maker has a different wax guard. If you buy the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions may be impaired, and that could result in the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • Your hearing aid shell is dirty: When you’re changing 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 possible, while you’re swapping out the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the interior of the hearing aid (and this would obviously impede the efficiency of your hearing aids).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard needs to be a monthly (or so) upkeep routine. A wax guard filters out the wax but sometimes it gets clogged and just like any kind of filter, it has to get cleaned. Every every so often, you’ll need to clean the guard or the wax caught up in it will start to block sound waves and damage your hearing.

Be certain you use the included instruction for best results with your wax guard.

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

You should hear substantially improved sound quality after you switch your wax guard. Hearing and following discussions should get much easier. And that can be a huge relief if you’ve been discouraged with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

Like with any specialized device, hearing aids do call for some regular upkeep, and there’s certainly a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: It’s likely time to replace your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is poor even when the battery is fully charged.

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