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

You just changed the batteries, but your hearing aids just don’t sound right. Everything seems muffled, distant, and not right. It’s like you aren’t hearing the full sound you’re supposed to be receiving. When you troubleshoot the issue with a basic Google search, the most probable answer seems like a low battery. Which frustrates you because you charge the batteries every night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t really hear their discussion. You got 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 might want to check out: your own earwax.

A Residence in Your Ears

Your hearing aids reside in your ear, usually. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear design. Other versions are manufactured to be positioned in the ear canal for optimal performance. No matter where your hearing aid is situated, it will encounter an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

A Shield Against Earwax

Now, earwax does a lot of great things for the health of your ears (numerous studies have revealed that earwax actually has anti-fungal and antibacterial attributes that can help stave off numerous infections). So earwax is not a bad thing.

But the relationship between hearing aids and earwax isn’t always helpful–earwax moisture, in particular, can hinder the standard operation of hearing aids. The good news is, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid makers and earwax doesn’t usually move in unpredictable ways.

So modern hearing aids have safeguards, called wax guards, created to prevent earwax from impacting the normal performance of your device. And the “weak” sound might be brought about by these wax guards.

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a tiny piece of technology in your hearing aid known as a wax guard. The concept is that the wax guard allows sound to get through, but not wax. So that your hearing aid can keep working effectively, a wax guard is indispensable. But issues can be created by the wax guard itself in some cases:

  • You’ve replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Most hearing aid manufacturers have their own specialized wax guard design. If you buy the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions could be impaired, and that could lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • Your hearing aid shell needs to be cleaned: When you’re switching your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be correctly cleaned also. If your device shell is covered with earwax, it’s possible, while you’re swapping out the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the interior of the hearing aid (and, naturally, this would impede the function of the hearing aid).
  • A professional clean and check is needed: At least once a year you should have your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to be sure it’s working correctly. You should also think about having your hearing checked on a regular basis to be certain your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) upkeep task. As with any filter, a wax guard can ultimately become clogged with the very thing it’s been tasked with eliminating. Every now and then, you’ll have to clean the guard or the wax caught up in it will begin to block sound waves and damage your hearing.
  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for a while: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. There’s only so much cleaning you can do to a wax guard! You might need to get a new wax guard if cleaning no longer works (you can get a special toolkit to make this process easier).

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

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

You should hear much improved sound quality once you change your wax guard. You’ll be able to hear (and follow along with) conversations again. And if you’ve been coping with weak sound quality from your hearing aids, this can be quite a relief.

Similar to any complex device, hearing aids do call for some regular upkeep, and there is certainly a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: It’s likely time to replace your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is weak even with a fully charged battery.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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