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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. Everything sounds dull, distant, and just a little off. It seems like some of the sound isn’t there. When you research the situation, a battery issue seems to be the most likely cause. And that’s irritating because you’re quite careful about putting your hearing aid on the charging platform before you go to bed each night.

Even so, here you are, struggling to hear your bunch of friends have a conversation around you. You bought hearing aids to avoid this exact situation. You may want to check out one more possibility before you become too angry about your hearing aids: earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Live 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. Other versions are designed to be positioned inside the ear canal for optimal results. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is positioned.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does lots of important things for the health of your ears (numerous studies have shown that earwax actually has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can help stave off various infections). So earwax isn’t a negative thing.

But the interaction between earwax and hearing aids isn’t always helpful–earwax moisture, in particular, can impact the standard operation of hearing aids. Fortunately, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well aware of it.

So modern hearing aids have safeguards, called wax guards, designed to keep earwax from interfering with the general function of your device. And those wax guards could be what’s creating the “weak” sound.

Wax Guard Etiquette

A wax guard is a small piece of technology that is integrated into your hearing aid. The idea is that the wax guard enables sound to go through, but not wax. So that your hearing aid can keep working efficiently, a wax guard is crucial. But troubles can be created by the wax guard itself in some situations:

  • You have an unclean hearing aid shell: And let’s not forget your hearing aid shell, which also has to be cleaned when you change your wax guard. If your device shell is plugged with earwax, it’s feasible some of that wax may make its way into the inside of the device while you’re swapping the guard (and, obviously, this would hinder the function of the hearing aid).
  • Cleaning your earwax guard should be done once every month: it’s been too long since you last cleaned them. Much like any filter, a wax guard can ultimately become clogged with the very thing it’s been tasked with eliminating. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is clogging up the wax guard and every once in a while, you will need to clean it.
  • You’ve replaced your wax guard with the wrong model: Most hearing aid manufacturers have their own specialized wax guard design. If you get the wrong model for your specific hearing aid, your device’s functions may be diminished, and that may lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • A professional check and clean is required: At least once every year you should get your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to make sure it’s working properly. 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.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been changed: Wax guards need replacing like any other filter. There’s only so much cleaning that can be done to a wax guard! You might need to get a new wax guard if cleaning doesn’t (in order to make this smoother, you can get a toolkit made specifically for this).

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

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

Once you’ve changed over your earwax guard, your hearing aids should begin providing clearer sounds. You’ll be able to hear (and follow) conversations again. And that can be a big relief if you’ve been annoyed with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

As with any specialized device, hearing aids do call for some routine maintenance, and there’s definitely a learning curve involved. So just remember: 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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