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

Your hearing aids don’t sound right despite the fact that you just changed the batteries. Things just sound off, like they’re a little bit dull and distant. It’s like some of the sound is missing. When you do some basic research, a low battery seems to be the most likely cause. Which frustrates you because you keep the batteries charged every night.

Even so, here you are, struggling to hear your bunch of friends carry on a conversation around you. This is precisely the situation you got hearing aids to prevent. Before you get too angry with your hearing aids, there’s one more reason for this diminished sound you may want to check: your own earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Live in Your Ears

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

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does a lot of important things for the health of your ears ((various infection can actually be avoided because of the antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities of earwax, according to many studies). So earwax is not a bad thing.

But earwax and hearing aids don’t always work together quite as well–the standard functionality of your hearing aid can be impeded by earwax, especially the moisture. The good news is, this isn’t really a surprise to hearing aid manufacturers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So a protective feature, 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.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

There is a tiny piece of technology in your hearing aid called a wax guard. The idea is that the wax guard allows sound to go through, but not wax. Wax guards are essential for your hearing aid to continue working correctly. But issues can be caused by the wax guard itself in certain situations:

  • 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 particular 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 was cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard needs to be a monthly (or so) upkeep routine. A wax guard blocks the wax but it can become clogged and like any kind of filter, it has to be cleaned. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is plugging up the wax guard and once in a while, you will need to clean it.
  • A professional clean and check is required: At least once a year you should have your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to be certain it’s functioning correctly. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also have your hearing tested regularly.
  • You have an unclean hearing aid shell: When you’re changing your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be correctly cleaned as well. 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 swapping the guard (and this would clearly hinder the efficiency of your hearing aids).
  • You haven’t replaced your wax guard for a while: 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 change your wax guard (you can buy a special toolkit to make this process easier).

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

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

You should hear much improved sound quality once you switch your wax guard. Hearing and following conversation should become much better. And that can be a real relief if you’ve been aggravated with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s undoubtedly a learning curve in regards to maintaining any complex device like hearing aids. So don’t forget: It’s most likely time to replace your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is poor even with a fully charged battery.

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