Hearing Health Blog

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. Everything sounds distant, muffled, and not right. It’s like you aren’t hearing the full sound you’re supposed to be getting. When you troubleshoot the problem with a basic Google search, the most plausible answer seems to be a low battery. Which annoys you because you charge the batteries every night.

But here you are with a group of friends and you can’t really hear their conversation. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. You may want to check out one more possibility before you get too annoyed about your hearing aids: earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Reside in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, usually. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear model. Other versions are designed to be placed inside the ear canal for ideal efficiency. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is positioned.

A Guard Against Earwax

Now, earwax does some 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 various studies). So earwax is not a negative thing.

But the interaction between hearing aids and earwax isn’t always so good–the normal operation of your hearing aid can be impeded by earwax, especially the moisture. The good thing is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

So a protective feature, known as wax guards, have been integrated so that the normal function of your device isn’t hampered by earwax. And those wax guards may be what’s causing the “weak” sound.

Wax Guard Etiquette

A wax guard is a small piece of technology that is bundled into your hearing aid. The idea is that the wax guard lets sound to go through, but not wax. So that your hearing aid can continue to work effectively, a wax guard is essential. But troubles can be created by the wax guard itself in certain cases:

  • Your hearing aid shell needs to be cleaned: 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 covering your device, it’s feasible some of that wax may make its way into the inside of the device while you’re swapping the guard (and, naturally, this would hamper the function of the hearing aid).
  • You have replaced your wax guard with the wrong model: Most hearing aid manufacturers have their own special wax guard design. Sound that is “weak” can be the outcome if you buy the wrong wax guard for your model.
  • A professional clean and check is required: At least once per year you need to get your hearing aid professionally checked and cleaned to be certain it’s working properly. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also have your hearing tested regularly.
  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for some time: As with any other filter, sooner or later the wax guard will no longer be able to properly perform its job. A wax guard can only be cleaned so much. You might need to get a new wax guard if cleaning no longer works (so that you can make this easier, you can get a toolkit made specifically for this).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard was cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) maintenance routine. A wax guard filters out the wax but it can become clogged and like any type of filter, it has to be cleaned. Every now and then, you’ll have to clean the guard or the wax caught up in it will begin to block sound waves and mess up your hearing.

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

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

Once you’ve changed your earwax guard, your hearing aids should begin providing clearer sounds. 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.

Much like any complex device, hearing aids do call for some regular maintenance, and there is certainly a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: if your hearing aid is sounding weak and your batteries are fully charged, it might be time to change your earwax guard.

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