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

You just swapped out the batteries, but your hearing aids just don’t sound the way they should. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little bit muffled and distant. It seems like some of the sound isn’t there. When you try to diagnose the problem with a simple Google search, the most plausible answer seems like a low battery. Which annoys you because you charge the batteries each night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t quite hear their discussion. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. You may want to check one more possibility before you become too aggravated about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Residence 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 design. Other models are manufactured to be placed in the ear canal for optimal efficiency. No matter where your hearing aid is situated, it will encounter an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

Earwax Guards

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

But the relationship between earwax and hearing aids isn’t always so good–the moisture in earwax, in particular, can interfere with the normal function of hearing aids. The good news is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

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

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a little piece of technology inside your hearing aid called a wax guard. The concept is that the wax guard allows sound to get through, but not wax. In order for your hearing aid to continue to work efficiently, a wax guard is indispensable. But there are some circumstances where the wax guard itself might cause some troubles:

  • You haven’t replaced your wax guard for some time: Wax guards need replacing like any other filter. There’s only so much cleaning that can be done to a wax guard! When cleaning no longer does the trick, you may have to replace your wax guard (you can buy a specialized toolkit to make this process easier).
  • It’s time for a professional clean and check: At least once per year you need to get your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to make certain it’s functioning correctly. You should also consider getting your hearing checked on a regular basis to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • When you bought your new wax guards, you got the wrong one: Most hearing aid providers have their own specialized wax guard design. If you purchase the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions could be diminished, and that may lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • You have a dirty hearing aid shell: When you’re switching your earwax guard, it’s important that your hearing aid shell be properly cleaned as well. If your device 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 clearly hamper the efficiency of your hearing aids).
  • Cleaning your earwax guard should be done once each month: it’s been too long since you’ve cleaned them. As with any filter, a wax guard can ultimately become clogged with the very thing it’s been tasked with eliminating. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is clogging up the wax guard and on occasion, you will have to clean it.

If you get a new hearing aid guard, it will probably come with instructions, so it’s a good plan to follow those instructions to the best of your ability.

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

You should hear substantially improved sound quality after you change your wax guard. You’ll be able to hear (and follow along with) conversations again. And that can be a real relief if you’ve been frustrated with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

Like with any complex device, hearing aids do call for some regular maintenance, and there’s undoubtedly 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 poor even when the battery is fully charged.

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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