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

You just replaced the batteries, but your hearing aids still don’t sound right. Things just sound off, like they’re a little dull and far away. It’s like you aren’t hearing the full sound you’re supposed to be getting. When you do some basic research, a battery issue seems to be the most likely cause. And that’s irritating because you’re really careful about placing your hearing aid on the charging station before you go to bed each night.

But here you are with a group of friends and you can’t quite hear their conversation. 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.

You’re Hearing Aids Live in Your Ears

Your hearing aids reside in your ear, in most cases. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear design. And for optimal efficiency, other designs have been designed to be positioned directly in the ear canal. Wherever your hearing aid is positioned, it will be close to an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

A Shield Against Earwax

Now, earwax does lots 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 stave off numerous infections). So earwax is not a negative thing.

But earwax and hearing aids don’t always get along quite as well–earwax moisture, in particular, can impact the standard operation of hearing aids. Fortunately, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

So modern hearing aids have shields, known as wax guards, designed to prevent earwax from impacting the normal performance of your device. And the “weak” sound may be brought about by these wax guards.

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a tiny piece of technology inside your hearing aid called a wax guard. Wax can’t pass through but sound can. Wax guards are important for your hearing aid to keep working properly. But problems can be created by the wax guard itself in certain cases:

  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been replaced: 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 when cleaning doesn’t (you can get a specialized toolkit to make this process easier).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard needs to be a monthly (or so) upkeep routine. A wax guard filters out the wax but sometimes it gets clogged and like any type of filter, it has to get cleaned. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is plugging up the wax guard and once in a while, you will have to clean it.
  • It’s time for a professional clean and check: In order to be certain that your hearing aid is functioning properly, it needs to be cleaned once per year. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to get your hearing tested on a regular basis.
  • You’ve replaced your wax guard with the wrong model: Each model and maker has a different wax guard. Sound that is “weak” can be the outcome if you get the wrong wax guard for your model.
  • Your hearing aid shell is dirty: And let’s not forget your hearing aid shell, which also has to be cleaned when you switch out your wax guard. If earwax is clogging your hearing aid, it’s possible, while you’re changing the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the interior of the hearing aid (and this would obviously hamper the function of your hearing aids).

Be certain you use the included instruction for best results with your wax guard.

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

Once you’ve changed over your earwax guard, your hearing aids should begin providing clearer sounds. Hearing and following discussions should be much better. And if you’ve been dealing with inferior sound quality from your hearing aids, this can be quite a relief.

Similar to any complex device, hearing aids do require some regular maintenance, and there’s certainly a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: if your hearing aid sounds weak and your batteries are fully charged, it could be time to replace your earwax guard.

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