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 just changed the batteries. Things just sound off, like they’re a little bit muffled and far away. It’s like some of the sound is lacking. When you troubleshoot the issue with a simple Google search, the most plausible solution seems like a low battery. Which annoys you because you keep the batteries charged every night.

Even so, here you are, fighting to listen as your group of friends carry on a conversation near you. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact situation. You may want to check one more possibility before you get too annoyed about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Home in Your Ears

Your ears are the place where your hearing aids reside under normal circumstances. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear model. Other versions are designed to be positioned inside the ear canal for best results. Wherever your hearing aid is positioned, it will be close to an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does a lot of important things for the health of your ears (numerous studies have revealed that earwax ,in fact, has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can help ward off various infections). So earwax is not a negative thing.

But hearing aids and earwax don’t always get along quite as well–the normal operation of your hearing aid can be hindered by earwax, particularly the moisture. The good news is, this isn’t really a surprise to hearing aid makers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So modern hearing aids have shields, known as wax guards, designed to prevent earwax from interfering with the normal performance of your device. And the “weak” sound might be caused by these wax guards.

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a tiny piece of technology inside your hearing aid called a wax guard. The idea is that the wax guard enables sound to get through, but not wax. In order for your hearing aid to continue to work effectively, a wax guard is essential. But there are some situations where the wax guard itself could cause some issues:

  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been changed: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. A wax guard can only be cleaned so many times. You may have to get a new wax guard when cleaning doesn’t (you can get a special toolkit to make this process smoother).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) upkeep task. A wax guard blocks the wax but it can become clogged and as with any kind of filter, it needs to get cleaned. Every now and then, you’ll have to clean the guard or the wax caught up in it will start to block sound waves and mess up your hearing.
  • A professional check and clean is required: In order to be sure that your hearing aid is working correctly, it needs to be cleaned once a year. And in order to be certain that your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also have your hearing tested on a regular basis.
  • You have replaced your wax guard with the wrong model: Most hearing aid manufacturers have their own specialized wax guard design. Sound that is “weak” can be the result if you buy the wrong wax guard for your model.
  • You have an unclean hearing aid shell: And let’s not forget your hearing aid shell, which also needs to be cleaned when you change your wax guard. If your device shell is plugged 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 this would obviously impede the efficiency of your hearing aids).

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

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

Once you’ve changed over your earwax guard, your hearing aids should start providing clearer sounds. Hearing and following discussions should be much easier. And that’s a real relief if you’ve been annoyed with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

Like with any complex device, hearing aids do call for some routine maintenance, and there’s 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 change your earwax guard.

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