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

You just changed the batteries, but your hearing aids still don’t sound the way they should. Things just sound off, like they’re a little bit muffled and far away. It’s like you can’t hear the full sound you’re supposed to be receiving. When you do some basic research, a low battery seems to be the most likely reason. Which frustrates you because you keep the batteries charged every night.

Nevertheless, here you are, fighting to hear your group of friends carry on a conversation around you. You bought hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. Before you get too aggravated with your hearing aids, there’s one more reason for this diminished sound you may want to check: your own earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Live in Your Ears

Your hearing aids reside in your ear, in most cases. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear model. And for best efficiency, other designs have been designed to be positioned 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 lots of great things for the health of your ears ((various infection can actually be prevented because of the antibacterial and anti-fungal properties of earwax, according to numerous studies). So earwax can actually be a positive thing.

But the interaction between earwax and hearing aids is not always so good–the moisture in earwax, in particular, can impact the normal operation of hearing aids. Fortunately, 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, known as wax guards, created to keep earwax from interfering with the normal performance of your device. And those wax guards may be what’s creating the “weak” sound.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

There is a little piece of technology in your hearing aid called a wax guard. Wax can’t pass through but sound can. So that your hearing aid can keep working efficiently, a wax guard is indispensable. But there are some situations where the wax guard itself might cause some problems:

  • You’ve replaced your wax guard with the wrong model: Every model and maker has a different wax guard. If you purchase the wrong model for your specific hearing aid, your device’s functions could be impaired, and that could lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • You have a dirty hearing aid shell: When you’re switching your earwax guard, it’s important that your hearing aid shell be correctly cleaned as well. If earwax is clogging your hearing aid, it’s feasible, while you’re swapping out the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the inside of the hearing aid (and, naturally, this would hinder the function of the hearing aid).
  • Cleaning your earwax guard should be done once a month: it’s been too long since you last cleaned them. A wax guard blocks the wax but it can become clogged and just like any kind of filter, it needs to be cleaned. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is plugging up the wax guard and once in a while, you will want to clean it.
  • It’s time for a professional check and clean: In order to be certain that your hearing aid is working properly, it should be cleaned once per year. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to get your hearing tested routinely.
  • 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 that can be done to a wax guard! When cleaning no longer does the trick, you might have to replace your wax guard (in order to make this easier, you can get a toolkit made specially for this).

If you buy 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 Change my Earwax Guard

You should observe substantially better sound quality after you switch your wax guard. You’ll be able to hear (and follow) conversations again. And that can be a big relief if you’ve been frustrated with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

As with any specialized device, hearing aids do require some routine upkeep, and there’s certainly a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: It’s likely time to change your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is weak even when the battery is fully charged.

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