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

Your hearing aids don’t sound right despite the fact that you recently changed the batteries. Everything sounds distant, dull, and just a little off. It’s like you can’t hear the full sound you’re supposed to be receiving. When you research the situation, a battery issue seems to be the probable cause. Which annoys you because you charge the batteries each night.

Even so, here you are, struggling to hear your bunch of friends have a conversation around you. This is precisely the situation you got hearing aids to prevent. You might want to check out one more possibility before you become too annoyed about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Home in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, in most cases. Even when you use an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. Other versions are designed to be placed in the ear canal for ideal efficiency. Wherever 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 studies have shown that earwax actually has anti-fungal and antibacterial attributes that can help ward off various infections). So earwax can actually be a positive thing.

But the relationship between earwax and hearing aids is not always so good–the normal operation of your hearing aid can be hampered by earwax, particularly the moisture. The good news is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

So a safety feature, known as wax guards, have been put in place so that the effective function of your device isn’t impeded by earwax. And those wax guards may be what’s causing the “weak” sound.

Wax Guard Etiquette

A wax guard is a tiny piece of technology that is incorporated into your hearing aid. Wax can’t go through but sound can. In order for your hearing aid to keep working effectively, a wax guard is indispensable. But problems can be created by the wax guard itself in certain circumstances:

  • Cleaning your earwax guard needs to be done once a month: it’s been too long since you’ve cleaned them. A wax guard blocks the wax but sometimes it gets clogged and like any kind of filter, it needs to get cleaned. Every once in a while, you’ll have to clean the guard or the wax stuck in it will start to block sound waves and mess up your hearing.
  • You have an unclean hearing aid shell: When you’re changing your earwax guard, it’s important that your hearing aid shell be properly cleaned also. If your device shell is covered with earwax, it’s possible some of that wax may make its way into the interior of the device while you’re swapping the guard (and this would clearly impede the efficiency of your hearing aids).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been replaced: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. There’s only so much cleaning you can do to a wax guard! You may need to get a new wax guard when cleaning doesn’t (in order to make this easier, you can buy a toolkit made specifically for this).
  • A professional clean and check is required: At least once per year you should get your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to make sure it’s working properly. 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 providers have their own special wax guard design. If you purchase the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions could be impaired, and that could result in the hearing aid sounding “weak.”

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

After I Change my Earwax Guard

You should observe substantially improved sound quality after you change your wax guard. Hearing and following discussions should be much better. And if you’ve been coping with poor sound quality from your hearing aids, this can be quite a relief.

Like with any complex device, hearing aids do require some routine upkeep, and there’s undoubtedly a learning curve involved. So just keep in mind: It’s probably time to replace your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is poor even with a fully charged battery.

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