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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 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 getting. When you do some basic research, a low battery appears to be the most likely cause. And that’s frustrating because you’re quite careful about setting your hearing aid on the charging station before you go to bed every night.

And yet, here you are, fighting to hear your group of friends have a discussion near you. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. You may want to check out one more possibility before you get too angry about your hearing aids: earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Reside in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, usually. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear design. And for best efficiency, other versions have been designed to be positioned directly in the ear canal. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor no matter where your hearing aid is positioned.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does some important things for the health of your ears (numerous studies have demonstrated that earwax actually has anti-fungal and antibacterial attributes that can help ward off various infections). So earwax is not a negative thing.

But hearing aids and earwax don’t always get along quite as well–the moisture in earwax, in particular, can hinder the normal function of hearing aids. Luckily, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid makers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So a protective component, called wax guards, have been integrated so that the effective function of your device isn’t hampered by earwax. And those wax guards could be what’s causing the “weak” sound.

Wax Guard Etiquette

A wax guard is a small piece of technology that is bundled into your hearing aid. Wax can’t get through but sound can. In order for your hearing aid to continue to work efficiently, a wax guard is indispensable. But problems can be created by the wax guard itself in some cases:

  • It’s time for a professional clean and check: In order to be sure that your hearing aid is working correctly, it needs to be cleaned once a year. You should also consider having your hearing evaluated regularly to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • Cleaning your earwax guard needs to be done once a month: it’s been too long since you’ve cleaned them. A wax guard blocks the wax but sometimes it gets clogged and just like any kind of filter, it needs to be cleaned. Every now and then, you’ll need to clean the guard or the wax stuck in it will begin to block sound waves and damage your hearing.
  • You have a dirty hearing aid shell: When you’re switching your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be properly cleaned as well. If earwax is covering your device, it’s feasible, while you’re swapping out the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the inside of the hearing aid (and, naturally, this would impede the function of the hearing aid).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been replaced: Just like any other filter, sooner or later the wax guard will no longer be able to properly perform its job. There’s only so much cleaning you can do to a wax guard! You may need to get a new wax guard when cleaning doesn’t (you can purchase a special toolkit to make this process smoother).
  • You’ve replaced your wax guard with the wrong model: Most hearing aid makers have their own unique wax guard design. Sound that is “weak” can be the result if you buy the wrong wax guard for your model.

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

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

Once you’ve changed your earwax guard, your hearing aids should begin providing clearer sounds. You’ll be able to hear (and follow) conversations again. And if you’ve been dealing with weak sound from your hearing aids, this can be quite a relief.

There’s certainly a learning curve with regards 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.