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

Your hearing aids aren’t sounding the way they should despite the fact that you recently changed the batteries. Everything seems distant, muffled, and not right. It seems like some of the sound is missing. When you troubleshoot the issue with a basic Google search, the most probable answer seems like a low battery. Which frustrates you because you keep the batteries charged each night.

And yet, here you are, struggling to hear your bunch of friends carry on a discussion around you. You bought hearing aids to avoid this exact situation. You may want to check one more possibility before you get too angry about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Home in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, usually. Even when you use an over-the-ear model, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. Other models are designed to be positioned in the ear canal for best performance. Wherever your hearing aid is situated, 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 ((many 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 earwax and hearing aids don’t always work together quite as well–the normal operation of your hearing aid can be impeded by earwax, especially the moisture. Luckily, this isn’t really a surprise to hearing aid manufacturers and earwax doesn’t usually move in unpredictable ways.

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

Things to Know About Wax Guards

A wax guard is a small piece of technology that is incorporated into your hearing aid. The idea is that the wax guard allows sound to get through, but not wax. Wax guards are crucial for your hearing aid to keep working correctly. But troubles can be created by the wax guard itself in certain circumstances:

  • You have replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Each model and maker has a different wax guard. Sound that is “weak” can be the outcome if you get the wrong wax guard for your model.
  • A professional check and clean is needed: In order to be sure that your hearing aid is working correctly, it needs to be cleaned once every year. And in order to be certain that your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also get your hearing tested on a regular basis.
  • Your hearing aid shell needs to be cleaned: And let’s remember your hearing aid shell, which also has to be cleaned when you switch out your wax guard. If your hearing aid shell is covered with earwax, it’s feasible, while you’re swapping out the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the inside of the hearing aid (and this would obviously hamper the function of your hearing aids).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard needs to be a monthly (or so) maintenance routine. A wax guard filters out the wax but sometimes it gets clogged and as with any type of filter, it needs to get cleaned. Every now and then, you’ll need to clean the guard or the wax caught up in it will start to block sound waves and damage your hearing.
  • You haven’t replaced your wax guard for some time: Wax guards need replacing 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 may have to change your wax guard (in order to make this easier, you can get a toolkit made specifically for this).

If you buy a new hearing aid guard, it will probably come with instructions, so it’s a good idea to follow those instructions to the best of your ability.

After I Change my Earwax Guard

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

There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to maintaining any specialized device such as hearing aids. So just keep in mind: if your hearing aid is sounding weak and your batteries have a full charge, it could be time to replace your earwax guard.

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