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

You just exchanged 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 far away. It’s like some of the sound isn’t there. When you try to diagnose the problem with a basic Google search, the most probable answer seems like a low battery. And that’s irritating because you’re quite careful about placing your hearing aid on the charging station before you go to bed every night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t really hear their conversation. This is precisely the situation you bought hearing aids to prevent. Before you get too upset with your hearing aids, there’s one more reason for this weak sound you might want to check out: your own earwax.

A Home in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, normally. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear model. And for ideal efficiency, other models have been created to be placed directly in the ear canal. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor no matter where your hearing aid is situated.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does some important things for the health of your ears (many studies have demonstrated that earwax actually has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can help ward off various infections). So earwax is not a bad thing.

But the relationship between earwax and hearing aids isn’t always so good–the normal operation of your hearing aid can be hindered by earwax, especially the moisture. The good news is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well aware of it.

So modern hearing aids have safeguards, called wax guards, created to keep earwax from interfering with the general function of your device. And the “weak” sound could be brought about by these wax guards.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

There is a small piece of technology inside your hearing aid known as a wax guard. Wax can’t get through but sound can. Wax guards are crucial for your hearing aid to continue working correctly. But there are some instances where the wax guard itself could cause some troubles:

  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) upkeep routine. Much like any filter, a wax guard can eventually become clogged with the exact thing it’s been tasked with filtering out. Every every so often, you’ll need to clean the guard or the wax stuck in it will begin to block sound waves and damage your hearing.
  • You need a professional clean and check: In order to be certain that your hearing aid is working correctly, it needs to be cleaned once per year. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also have your hearing tested on a regular basis.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been changed: As with any other filter, eventually, the wax guard will no longer be able to adequately perform its task. A wax guard can only be cleaned so many times. When cleaning no longer does the trick, you may have to change your wax guard (in order to make this smoother, you can get a toolkit made specifically for this).
  • You have replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Each model and maker has a different wax guard. If you buy the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions might be diminished, and that could lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • You have an unclean hearing aid shell: When you’re switching your earwax guard, it’s important that your hearing aid shell be properly cleaned also. If earwax is clogging your hearing aid, it’s feasible some of that wax could find its way into the inside of the device while you’re swapping the guard (and this would obviously impede the efficiency of your hearing aids).

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

I Changed my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

Once you’ve changed over your earwax guard, your hearing aids should start providing clearer sounds. You’ll be able to hear (and follow along with) conversations again. And that can be a big relief if you’ve been disappointed with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

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

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