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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 just changed the batteries. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little bit dull and far away. It’s like you aren’t hearing the full sound you’re supposed to be receiving. When you do some basic research, a low battery seems to be the most likely cause. And that’s frustrating because you’re very diligent about setting your hearing aid on the charging platform before you go to bed every night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t really hear their discussion. You bought hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. Before you get too mad with your hearing aids, there’s one more reason for this weak sound you may want to check out: your own earwax.

A Residence in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, in most cases. Even when you wear an over-the-ear model, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for best performance, other models 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 situated.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does lots of great things for the health of your ears (many studies have revealed that earwax ,in fact, has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can help prevent various infections). So earwax is not a negative thing.

But earwax and hearing aids don’t always work together quite as well–the moisture in earwax, in particular, can interfere with the normal function of hearing aids. On the plus side, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid manufacturers and earwax doesn’t usually move in unpredictable ways.

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

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a small piece of technology inside your hearing aid called a wax guard. The idea is that the wax guard allows sound to pass through, but not wax. Wax guards are a must for your hearing aid to keep working correctly. But issues can be created by the wax guard itself in certain situations:

  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for a while: Like 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 many times. You may have to get a new wax guard if cleaning doesn’t (in order to make this easier, you can buy a toolkit made specially for this).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) upkeep task. A wax guard blocks the wax but sometimes it gets clogged and like any kind of filter, it needs to get cleaned. Every once in a while, you’ll have to clean the guard or the wax stuck in it will begin to block sound waves and mess up your hearing.
  • Your hearing aid shell is dirty: When you’re changing your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be properly cleaned also. If your hearing aid shell is plugged with earwax, it’s possible some of that wax may find its way into the inside of the device while you’re changing the guard (and, naturally, this would hamper the function of the hearing aid).
  • A professional clean and check is required: In order to be sure that your hearing aid is functioning properly, it should be cleaned once every year. You should also consider getting your hearing tested on a regular basis to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • You have replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Every model and maker has a different wax guard. If you buy the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions may be impaired, and that could lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”

Make certain you use the included instruction for best success with your wax guard.

After I Change my Earwax Guard

You should observe substantially improved sound quality after you change your wax guard. You’ll be able to hear (and follow along with) conversations again. And if you’ve been dealing with poor sound quality from your hearing aids, this can be a real relief.

Much like any complex device, hearing aids do call for some regular maintenance, and there is definitely a learning curve involved. So just keep in mind: if your hearing aid is sounding weak and your batteries are fully charged, it might be time to replace your earwax guard.

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