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

Your hearing aids don’t sound right even though you just changed the batteries. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little dull and distant. It’s like you aren’t hearing the full sound you’re supposed to be getting. When you troubleshoot the problem with a simple Google search, the most likely solution seems like a low battery. Which frustrates you because you keep the batteries charged each night.

And yet, here you are, struggling to listen as your group of friends carry on a conversation around you. This is exactly the situation you got hearing aids to prevent. You may want to check one more possibility before you get too angry about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Residence in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, normally. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear design. And for best efficiency, other models have been created to be placed directly in the ear canal. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is situated.

A Shield Against Earwax

Now, earwax does some great things for the health of your ears ((numerous infection can actually be avoided because of the antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities of earwax, according to numerous studies). So earwax can actually be a positive thing.

But earwax and hearing aids don’t always get along quite as well–the standard functionality of your hearing aid can be hampered by earwax, peculiarly the moisture. Luckily, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid manufacturers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So modern hearing aids have safeguards, called wax guards, created to keep earwax from interfering with the normal function of your device. And those wax guards may be what’s creating the “weak” sound.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

There is a small piece of technology inside your hearing aid known as a wax guard. Wax can’t pass through but sound can. In order for your hearing aid to keep working effectively, a wax guard is indispensable. But problems can be caused by the wax guard itself in some situations:

  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been changed: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. There’s only so much cleaning you can do to a wax guard! When cleaning no longer does the trick, you might have to replace your wax guard (you can purchase a special toolkit to make this process easier).
  • A professional clean and check is required: In order to be certain that your hearing aid is functioning properly, it needs to be cleaned once every year. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to get your hearing tested regularly.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard needs to be a monthly (or so) maintenance task. As with any filter, a wax guard can eventually become clogged with the very thing it’s been tasked with filtering out. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is plugging up the wax guard and on occasion, you will need to clean it.
  • You have an unclean hearing aid shell: When you’re switching your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be properly cleaned as well. If earwax is clogging your hearing aid, it’s feasible some of that wax could make its way into the interior of the device while you’re changing the guard (and, naturally, this would hamper the function of the hearing aid).
  • When you purchased your new wax guards, you got the wrong one: Most hearing aid makers have their own special wax guard design. If you get the wrong model for your specific hearing aid, your device’s functions may be impaired, and that could lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”

If you get a new hearing aid guard, it will most 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 discussions should become much better. And that can be a huge relief if you’ve been disappointed with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s certainly a learning curve when it comes to maintaining any specialized device like hearing aids. So just remember: It’s likely time to replace your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is weak even when the battery is fully charged.

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