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

You just changed the batteries, but your hearing aids just don’t sound the way they should. Everything seems distant, muffled, and not right. It’s like you can’t hear the full sound you’re supposed to be experiencing. When you research the situation, a battery issue appears to be the probable reason. Which annoys you because you keep the batteries charged each night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t really hear their discussion. This is exactly the scenario you got hearing aids to prevent. Before you get too aggravated with your hearing aids, there’s one more cause for this weak sound you might want to check: your own earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Reside in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, usually. Even when you wear an over-the-ear model, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. Other models are manufactured to be placed inside the ear canal for best performance. No matter where your hearing aid is positioned, it will be close to an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

A Shield Against Earwax

Now, earwax does a lot of great things for the health of your ears (many studies have demonstrated that earwax ,in fact, has anti-fungal and antibacterial attributes that can help prevent numerous infections). So earwax isn’t a bad thing.

But earwax and hearing aids don’t always work together quite as well–the normal operation of your hearing aid can be hampered by earwax, especially the moisture. The good thing is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well aware of it.

So a safety feature, called wax guards, have been integrated so that the effective function of your device isn’t impeded by earwax. And the “weak” sound may be caused by these wax guards.

Wax Guard Etiquette

A wax guard is a small piece of technology that is integrated into your hearing aid. The idea is that the wax guard enables sound to go through, but not wax. In order for your hearing aid to continue to work properly, a wax guard is indispensable. But there are some instances where the wax guard itself could cause some issues:

  • You’ve replaced your wax guard with the wrong model: Every model and maker has a different wax guard. Sound that is “weak” can be the outcome if you buy the wrong wax guard for your model.
  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for a while: 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 much. When cleaning no longer does the trick, you may have to replace your wax guard (so that you can make this easier, you can get a toolkit made specially for this).
  • Cleaning your earwax guard should be done once a month: it’s been too long since you last cleaned them. Much like any filter, a wax guard can eventually become clogged with the very thing it’s been tasked with eliminating. Every once in a while, you’ll need to clean the guard or the wax caught up in it will begin to block sound waves and mess up your hearing.
  • Your hearing aid shell is dirty: And let’s not forget your hearing aid shell, which also has to be cleaned when you change your wax guard. If your hearing aid shell is plugged with earwax, it’s feasible some of that wax could make its way into the interior of the device while you’re changing the guard (and this would obviously hinder the efficiency of your hearing aids).
  • A professional clean and check is required: At least once per year you should have your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to make sure it’s working properly. And in order to be certain that your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also get your hearing tested regularly.

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

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

Once you’ve changed over your earwax guard, your hearing aids should start producing clearer sounds. Hearing and following conversation should become much better. And if you’ve been coping with inferior sound quality from your hearing aids, this can be quite a relief.

There’s certainly a learning curve in regards to maintaining any specialized device like hearing aids. So don’t forget: It’s probably time to replace your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is weak even when the battery is fully charged.