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

Your hearing aids don’t sound the way they should even though you just changed the batteries. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little bit dull and distant. It seems like some of the sound isn’t there. When you try to diagnose the problem with a basic Google search, the most probable solution seems to be a low battery. Which annoys you because you keep the batteries charged every night.

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

A Residence in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids live under typical circumstances. Even when you wear an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. Other versions are designed to be placed inside the ear canal for optimal performance. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is positioned.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does lots of important things for the health of your ears (many studies have demonstrated that earwax ,in fact, has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can help prevent various infections). So earwax can actually be a positive thing.

But earwax and hearing aids don’t always work together quite as well–earwax moisture, especially, can impact the standard operation of hearing aids. The good thing is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

So a protective feature, known as wax guards, have been integrated so that the normal function of your device isn’t hampered by earwax. And the “weak” sound may be caused by these wax guards.

Wax Guard Etiquette

A wax guard is a little piece of technology that is integrated into your hearing aid. The concept is that the wax guard enables sound to go through, but not wax. In order for your hearing aid to keep working properly, a wax guard is crucial. But there are some situations where the wax guard itself might cause some issues:

  • You have a dirty hearing aid shell: And let’s remember your hearing aid shell, which also has to be cleaned when you switch out your wax guard. If earwax is clogging your device, 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 hinder the function of the hearing aid).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard was cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) upkeep routine. As with any filter, a wax guard can eventually become clogged with the very thing it’s been tasked with eliminating. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is plugging up the wax guard and once in a while, you will need to clean it.
  • You have replaced your wax guard with the wrong model: Most hearing aid manufacturers have their own unique wax guard design. Sound that is “weak” can be the outcome if you buy the wrong wax guard for your model.
  • You need a professional check and clean: At least once per year you should have your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to be certain it’s working correctly. And in order to be certain that your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also get your hearing tested routinely.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been changed: Just like any other filter, eventually, the wax guard will no longer be able to adequately perform its job. There’s only so much cleaning you can do to a wax guard! You might have to get a new wax guard if cleaning no longer works (you can purchase a special toolkit to make this process smoother).

Make sure you use the included instruction for best success with your new wax guard.

I Changed my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

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

Just like any specialized device, hearing aids do call for some routine upkeep, and there’s undoubtedly a learning curve involved. So just keep in mind: if your hearing aid sounds weak and your batteries have a full charge, it could be time to change your earwax guard.