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

Your hearing aids don’t sound right even though you recently changed the batteries. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little muffled and far away. It’s like you can’t hear the full sound you’re supposed to be getting. When you research the situation, a battery issue seems to be the most likely reason. Which frustrates you because you keep the batteries charged every night.

And yet, here you are, fighting to hear your group of friends carry on a conversation around you. This is exactly the scenario you got hearing aids to avoid. You may want to check out one more possibility before you get too aggravated about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Home in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids reside under typical circumstances. Even when you use an over-the-ear model, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. Other versions are manufactured to be positioned inside the ear canal for ideal performance. No matter where your hearing aid is positioned, it will encounter an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does lots of important 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 numerous studies). So earwax can actually be a good thing.

But the relationship between earwax and hearing aids is not always so good–the moisture in earwax, in particular, 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 safeguards, known as wax guards, created to stop earwax from impacting the general function of your device. And the “weak” sound might be caused by these wax guards.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

A wax guard is a small piece of technology that is incorporated into your hearing aid. Wax can’t go through but sound can. In order for your hearing aid to keep working effectively, a wax guard is essential. But there are some circumstances where the wax guard itself might cause some problems:

  • It’s time for a professional check and clean: At least once a year you need to have your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to make sure it’s functioning properly. And in order to be certain that your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also get your hearing tested on a regular basis.
  • Cleaning your earwax guard needs to be done once each month: it’s been too long since you’ve cleaned them. A wax guard blocks the wax but sometimes it gets clogged and like any type of filter, it has to be cleaned. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is plugging up the wax guard and every once in a while, you will want to clean it.
  • Your hearing aid shell needs to be cleaned: And let’s not forget your hearing aid shell, which also needs to be cleaned when you change your wax guard. If your hearing aid shell is plugged with earwax, it’s feasible, while you’re changing the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the inside of the hearing aid (and, naturally, this would impede the function of the hearing aid).
  • You haven’t replaced your wax guard for a while: As with any other filter, sooner or later the wax guard will no longer be able to effectively perform its job. There’s only so much cleaning that can be done to a wax guard! When cleaning no longer does the trick, you might have to replace your wax guard (in order to make this easier, you can buy a toolkit made specially for this).
  • You have replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Each model and maker has a different wax guard. If you buy the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions might be impaired, and that could lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”

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

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

Once you’ve changed over your earwax guard, your hearing aids should start producing clearer sounds. Hearing and following conversation should get much easier. And that’s a huge relief if you’ve been annoyed with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

Much like any specialized device, hearing aids do call for some routine maintenance, and there’s definitely a learning curve involved. So just keep in mind: if your hearing aid sounds weak and your batteries are fully charged, it might be time to change your earwax guard.