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

You just swapped out 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 distant. It’s like you aren’t hearing the full sound you’re supposed to be experiencing. When you research the situation, a battery issue appears to be the most likely reason. Which frustrates you because you keep the batteries charged every night.

Even so, here you are, fighting to listen as your bunch of friends carry on a discussion around you. You bought hearing aids to avoid this exact situation. You might want to check one more possibility before you become too angry about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Home in Your Ears

Your ears are the place where your hearing aids live under normal circumstances. Even when you wear an over-the-ear model, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for best efficiency, other designs have been created to be placed directly in the ear canal. No matter where your hearing aid is positioned, it will encounter an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

Earwax Guards

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

But the relationship between earwax and hearing aids isn’t always helpful–the normal operation of your hearing aid can be hampered by earwax, peculiarly the moisture. Fortunately, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

So modern hearing aids have safeguards, called wax guards, designed to stop earwax from impacting the general function of your device. And those wax guards could be what’s causing the “weak” sound.

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a little piece of technology in your hearing aid called a wax guard. Wax can’t go through but sound can. Wax guards are crucial for your hearing aid to keep working correctly. But problems can be created by the wax guard itself in certain circumstances:

  • Your hearing aid shell needs to be cleaned: When you’re switching your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be correctly cleaned also. If your device shell is covered with earwax, it’s feasible some of that wax may find its way into the interior of the device while you’re changing the guard (and, naturally, this would impede the function of the hearing aid).
  • It’s time for a professional check and clean: At least once a year you need to get your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to be sure it’s functioning properly. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also have your hearing tested regularly.
  • When you purchased your new wax guards, you got the wrong one: Every model and maker has a different wax guard. If you buy the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions may be diminished, and that could lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard needs to be a monthly (or so) upkeep routine. A wax guard blocks the wax but it can become clogged and as with any type of filter, it has to be cleaned. Every every so often, you’ll have to clean the guard or the wax stuck in it will begin to block sound waves and damage your hearing.
  • 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 much. When cleaning no longer does the trick, you might have to change your wax guard (in order to make this smoother, you can get a toolkit made specifically for this).

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

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

You should hear much improved sound quality after you switch your wax guard. You’ll be able to hear (and follow along with) conversations again. And if you’ve been dealing with inferior sound from your hearing aids, this can be a real relief.

There’s certainly a learning curve with regards to maintaining any specialized device like hearing aids. So just keep in mind: if your hearing aid is sounding weak and your batteries are fully charged, it may be time to change your earwax guard.

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