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

Your hearing aids don’t sound the way they should despite the fact that you recently changed the batteries. Things just sound off, like they’re a little dull and distant. It’s like you can’t hear the full sound you’re supposed to be experiencing. When you do some basic research, a battery issue seems to be the most likely cause. Which annoys you because you keep the batteries charged every 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 angry with your hearing aids, there’s one more cause for this weak sound you may want to check out: your own earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Reside in Your Ears

Your hearing aids reside in your ear, usually. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear model. And for ideal performance, other designs have been created to be positioned directly in the ear canal. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor no matter where your hearing aid is situated.

A Shield Against Earwax

Now, earwax does lots of great things for the health of your ears ((various infection can actually be prevented because of the antibacterial and anti-fungal properties of earwax, according to various 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, particularly, can impact the normal function of hearing aids. The good thing is, 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 might be caused by these wax guards.

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a small 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 there are some instances where the wax guard itself might cause some problems:

  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been replaced: Like any other filter, sooner or later the wax guard will no longer be able to adequately perform its job. There’s only so much cleaning you can do to a wax guard! When cleaning no longer does the trick, you might have to replace your wax guard (so that you can make this smoother, you can get a toolkit made specially for this).
  • When you purchased your new wax guards, you got the wrong one: Every model and maker has a different wax guard. If you get the wrong model for your specific hearing aid, your device’s functions may be diminished, and that may result in the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • 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 filters out the wax but sometimes it gets clogged and just like any type of filter, it needs to get cleaned. Every every so often, you’ll need to clean the guard or the wax caught up in it will start to block sound waves and mess up your hearing.
  • Your hearing aid shell needs to be cleaned: 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 possible, while you’re changing the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the interior of the hearing aid (and this would clearly hamper the function of your hearing aids).
  • It’s time for a professional clean and check: In order to be certain that your hearing aid is functioning correctly, it needs to be cleaned once a year. And in order to be certain that your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to get your hearing tested on a regular basis.

Make sure you follow the included instruction for best results with your new wax guard.

I Changed my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

Once you’ve changed your earwax guard, your hearing aids should start producing clearer sounds. Hearing and following conversation should become much better. And that can be a huge relief if you’ve been disappointed with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to maintaining any complex device like hearing aids. So just keep in mind: if your hearing aid is sounding weak and your batteries are fully charged, it may be time to replace your earwax guard.