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

You just changed the batteries, but your hearing aids still don’t sound the way they should. Things just sound off, 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 getting. When you try to diagnose the issue with a simple Google search, the most likely answer seems like a low battery. And that’s irritating because you’re quite careful about setting your hearing aid on the charging station before you go to bed every night.

But here you are with a group of friends and you can’t really hear their conversation. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. Before you get too aggravated with your hearing aids, there’s one more cause for this weak sound you might want to check out: your own earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Reside in Your Ears

Your hearing aids reside in your ear, in most cases. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear design. And for ideal performance, other designs have been created to be placed directly in the ear canal. No matter where your hearing aid is situated, it will encounter an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does lots of great things for the health of your ears (numerous studies have revealed that earwax actually has anti-fungal and antibacterial attributes that can help stave off numerous infections). So earwax can actually be a good thing.

But hearing aids and earwax don’t always get along quite as well–the standard functionality of your hearing aid can be hindered by earwax, peculiarly the moisture. The good news is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

So modern hearing aids have safeguards, known as wax guards, created to prevent earwax from impacting the normal function of your device. And those wax guards might be what’s creating the “weak” sound.

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a little piece of technology inside your hearing aid known as a wax guard. Wax can’t pass through but sound can. So that your hearing aid can keep working efficiently, a wax guard is crucial. But there are some situations where the wax guard itself could cause some troubles:

  • You need a professional clean and check: In order to be certain that your hearing aid is working correctly, it needs to be cleaned once a year. You should also consider having your hearing tested on a regular basis to be certain your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard needs to be a monthly (or so) upkeep task. A wax guard filters out the wax but it can become clogged and just like any type of filter, it has to be cleaned. Every now and then, 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.
  • When you purchased your new wax guards, you got the wrong one: Most hearing aid manufacturers have their own specialized wax guard design. If you buy the wrong model for your specific hearing aid, your device’s functions could be diminished, and that may lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • Your hearing aid shell needs to be cleaned: When you’re switching your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be properly cleaned as well. If your hearing aid shell is covered with earwax, it’s feasible, while you’re changing the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the inside of the hearing aid (and, obviously, this would hamper the function of the hearing aid).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been changed: Just like any other filter, sooner or later the wax guard will no longer be able to effectively perform its job. There’s only so much cleaning that can be done to a wax guard! You might have to get a new wax guard when cleaning no longer works (so that you can make this smoother, you can purchase a toolkit made specifically for this).

If you purchase a new hearing aid guard, it will likely come with instructions, so it’s a good idea to follow those instructions to the best of your ability.

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

Once you’ve changed your earwax guard, your hearing aids should begin producing clearer sounds. Hearing and following conversation should be much better. And that can be a real relief if you’ve been frustrated with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

Like with any specialized device, hearing aids do require some regular maintenance, and there is definitely a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: if your hearing aid is sounding weak and your batteries have a full charge, it could be time to replace your earwax guard.

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