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

You just replaced the batteries, but your hearing aids still don’t sound right. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little bit muffled and far away. It’s like some of the sound is lacking. When you research the situation, a low battery appears to be the most likely cause. And that’s aggravating because you’re very careful about setting your hearing aid on the charging station before you go to sleep every 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 out one more possibility before you become too annoyed about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Residence in Your Ears

Your ears are the place where your hearing aids reside under typical circumstances. Even when you use an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for optimal efficiency, other versions have been designed to be placed directly in the ear canal. Regardless of where your hearing aid is positioned, it will be close to an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

A Guard Against Earwax

Now, earwax does lots of great things for the health of your ears ((various 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 the interaction between hearing aids and earwax is not always so good–the standard operation of your hearing aid can be impeded by earwax, particularly the moisture. Luckily, this isn’t really a surprise to hearing aid makers and earwax doesn’t usually move in unpredictable ways.

So a safety component, called wax guards, have been integrated so that the effective function of your device isn’t hampered by earwax. And those wax guards could be what’s causing the “weak” sound.

Wax Guard Etiquette

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 continue to work effectively, a wax guard is indispensable. But problems can be caused by the wax guard itself in certain circumstances:

  • It’s been too long since the wax guard was cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) upkeep task. As with any filter, a wax guard can eventually become clogged with the exact thing it’s been tasked with filtering out. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is plugging up the wax guard and every once in a while, you will want to clean it.
  • You have a dirty hearing aid shell: When you’re switching your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be correctly cleaned as well. If your device shell is plugged with earwax, it’s possible, while you’re changing the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the interior of the hearing aid (and this would obviously hinder the function of your hearing aids).
  • When you purchased your new wax guards, you got the wrong model: Most hearing aid makers have their own unique wax guard design. If you purchase 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.”
  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for a while: Wax guards need replacing like any other filter. A wax guard can only be cleaned so many times. When cleaning no longer does the trick, you might have to change your wax guard (you can buy a special toolkit to make this process smoother).
  • You need a professional check and clean: At least once every year you should have your hearing aid professionally checked and cleaned to be sure it’s working properly. You should also think about having your hearing examined on a regular basis to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all.

Make sure you follow the included instruction for best results with your new wax guard.

I Changed my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

You should hear substantially improved sound quality once you switch your wax guard. You’ll be able to hear (and follow along with) conversations again. And if you’ve been coping with weak 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 is definitely a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: if your hearing aid sounds weak and your batteries have a full charge, it could be time to replace your earwax guard.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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