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

Your hearing aids aren’t sounding right despite the fact that you recently changed the batteries. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little bit dull and far away. It’s like you can’t hear the full sound you’re supposed to be experiencing. When you research the situation, a low battery appears to be the probable cause. Which frustrates you because you keep the batteries charged every night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t really hear their discussion. This is exactly the scenario you bought hearing aids to prevent. You might want to check one more possibility before you become too aggravated about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Home in Your Ears

Your ears are the place where your hearing aids reside under normal circumstances. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear model. Other models are designed to be positioned inside the ear canal for best performance. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor no matter where your hearing aid is situated.

A Shield Against Earwax

Now, earwax does some great things for the health of your ears ((many infection can actually be prevented because of the antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities of earwax, according to various studies). So earwax can actually be a good thing.

But earwax and hearing aids don’t always get along quite as well–the standard functionality of your hearing aid can be impeded by earwax, particularly the moisture. On the plus side, 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, referred to as wax guards, created to prevent 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 tiny piece of technology inside your hearing aid known as a wax guard. Wax can’t get through but sound can. Wax guards are important for your hearing aid to keep working correctly. But issues can be caused by the wax guard itself in some situations:

  • Cleaning your earwax guard should be done once a month: it’s been too long since you’ve cleaned them. 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 need to clean the guard or the wax stuck in it will start to block sound waves and damage your hearing.
  • When you bought your new wax guards, you got the wrong one: Every model and maker has a different wax guard. If you purchase the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions might be diminished, and that may result in the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • You haven’t replaced your wax guard for some time: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. A wax guard can only be cleaned so many times. You might have to get a new wax guard when cleaning doesn’t (so that you can make this easier, you can purchase a toolkit made specially for this).
  • Your hearing aid shell is dirty: And let’s not forget your hearing aid shell, which also has to be cleaned when you switch out your wax guard. If your device shell is plugged 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, naturally, this would hamper the function of the hearing aid).
  • A professional check and clean is needed: In order to be sure that your hearing aid is functioning correctly, it should be cleaned once every year. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also get your hearing tested regularly.

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

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

You should notice much better sound quality once you switch your wax guard. You’ll be able to hear (and follow) conversations again. And that’s a real relief if you’ve been disappointed with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

Much like any specialized device, hearing aids do call for some regular maintenance, 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 poor even when the battery is fully charged.

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