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

You just exchanged the batteries, but your hearing aids still don’t sound the way they should. Everything sounds muffled, distant, and just a little off. It’s like you can’t hear the full sound you’re supposed to be experiencing. When you troubleshoot the issue with a simple Google search, the most probable solution seems to be a low battery. And that’s irritating because you’re very diligent about putting your hearing aid on the charging platform before you go to sleep every night.

Even so, here you are, fighting to listen as your group of friends carry on a discussion near you. You bought hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. 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 hearing aids live in your ear, normally. Even when you wear an over-the-ear model, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. Other models are manufactured to be positioned inside the ear canal for ideal performance. Regardless of where your hearing aid is situated, it will be close to an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

A Shield Against Earwax

Now, earwax does a lot 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 many studies). So earwax isn’t a negative thing.

But the relationship between hearing aids and earwax isn’t always so good–the moisture in earwax, in particular, can hinder the standard function of hearing aids. Fortunately, this isn’t really a surprise to hearing aid makers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So a safety feature, called 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

There is a little piece of technology in your hearing aid called a wax guard. The concept is that the wax guard allows sound to pass through, but not wax. In order for your hearing aid to continue to work effectively, a wax guard is crucial. But there are some situations where the wax guard itself might cause some issues:

  • A professional clean and check is required: At least once per year you should get your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to be certain it’s working correctly. You should also think about having your hearing examined on a regular basis to be certain your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • 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 change your wax guard. If your device shell is covered with earwax, it’s feasible some of that wax could find its way into the inside of the device while you’re swapping the guard (and, naturally, this would impede the function of the hearing aid).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been changed: As with any other filter, sooner or later the wax guard will no longer be able to adequately perform its task. A wax guard can only be cleaned so much. When cleaning no longer does the trick, you may have to replace your wax guard (so that you can make this easier, you can get a toolkit made specially for this).
  • Cleaning your earwax guard should be done once every month: it’s been too long since you’ve cleaned them. A wax guard filters out the wax but it can become 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 now and then, you will want to clean it.
  • When you bought your new wax guards, you got the wrong model: Most hearing aid makers have their own specialized wax guard design. If you purchase the wrong model for your specific hearing aid, your device’s functions may be impaired, and that may lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”

If you purchase a new hearing aid guard, it will likely come with instructions, so it’s a good plan to follow those instructions to the best of your ability.

After I Change my Earwax Guard

You should notice substantially improved sound quality once you switch your wax guard. You’ll be able to hear (and follow) conversations again. And if you’ve been coping with inferior sound from your hearing aids, this can be a real relief.

There’s certainly a learning curve in regards to maintaining any complex device like hearing aids. So just remember: if your hearing aid is sounding weak and your batteries are fully charged, it might be time to replace your earwax guard.

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