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

Your hearing aids don’t sound the way they should despite the fact that you recently changed the batteries. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little bit dull and far away. It’s like you aren’t hearing the full sound you’re supposed to be experiencing. When you do some basic research, a battery issue appears to be the most likely reason. And that’s frustrating because you’re really diligent about setting your hearing aid on the charging station before you go to bed each night.

But here you are with a group of friends and you can’t quite hear their discussion. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. You may want to check one more possibility before you get too angry about your hearing aids: earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Reside 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 ideal results. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor no matter where your hearing aid is positioned.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does a lot of great things for the health of your ears (many studies have demonstrated that earwax ,in fact, has anti-fungal and antibacterial attributes that can help stave off numerous infections). So earwax is not a negative thing.

But earwax and hearing aids don’t always work together quite as well–the standard functionality of your hearing aid can be hampered by earwax, particularly the moisture. Fortunately, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well aware of it.

So modern hearing aids have safeguards, known as wax guards, designed to stop earwax from interfering with the general function of your device. And the “weak” sound may be brought about by these wax guards.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

There is a small piece of technology in your hearing aid called a wax guard. The concept is that the wax guard allows sound to get through, but not wax. So that your hearing aid can continue to work effectively, a wax guard is crucial. But troubles can be created by the wax guard itself in some cases:

  • You need a professional check and clean: At least once every year you need to have your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to be certain it’s functioning correctly. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to have your hearing tested on a regular basis.
  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for some time: As with any other filter, sooner or later the wax guard will no longer be able to adequately perform its task. A wax guard can only be cleaned so much. You may have to get a new wax guard when cleaning no longer works (you can get a specialized toolkit to make this process smoother).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard was cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) maintenance routine. Much like any filter, a wax guard can ultimately become clogged with the very thing it’s been tasked with filtering out. Every once in a while, you’ll have to clean the guard or the wax caught up in it will begin to block sound waves and mess up your hearing.
  • Your hearing aid shell is dirty: And let’s remember your hearing aid shell, which also needs to be cleaned when you switch out your wax guard. If earwax is covering 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, naturally, this would hinder the function of the hearing aid).
  • When you bought your new wax guards, you got the wrong model: Most hearing aid makers have their own unique wax guard design. Sound that is “weak” can be the outcome if you purchase the wrong wax guard for your model.

Make certain you follow the included instruction for best success with your wax guard.

I Changed my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

Once you’ve changed your earwax guard, your hearing aids should begin providing clearer sounds. You’ll be able to hear (and follow along with) conversations again. And if you’ve been dealing with poor sound quality from your hearing aids, this can be quite a relief.

Similar to any complex device, hearing aids do require some routine maintenance, and there’s certainly a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: It’s likely 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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