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

You just swapped out the batteries, but your hearing aids just don’t sound right. Things just sound off, like they’re a little muffled and far away. It’s like some of the sound isn’t there. When you do some basic research, a low battery seems to be the probable reason. And that’s frustrating because you’re very careful about placing your hearing aid on the charging platform before you go to sleep each night.

And yet, here you are, fighting to hear your group of friends have a discussion near you. You bought hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. You may want to check out one more possibility before you become too angry about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Home in Your Ears

Your hearing aids reside in your ear, in most cases. Even when you wear an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. Other versions are designed to be positioned inside the ear canal for best results. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is situated.

Earwax Guards

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

But hearing aids and earwax don’t always work together quite as well–earwax moisture, particularly, can impact the standard operation of hearing aids. Fortunately, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid manufacturers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So a safety component, known as wax guards, have been put in place so that the effective function of your device isn’t impeded by earwax. And the “weak” sound might be brought about by these wax guards.

Wax Guard Etiquette

A wax guard is a little piece of technology that is bundled into your hearing aid. Wax can’t pass through but sound can. In order for your hearing aid to keep working properly, a wax guard is crucial. But there are some situations where the wax guard itself could cause some troubles:

  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) maintenance routine. Much like any filter, a wax guard can ultimately become clogged with the exact thing it’s been tasked with filtering out. Every now and then, you’ll have to clean the guard or the wax stuck in it will begin to block sound waves and damage your hearing.
  • You haven’t replaced your wax guard for some time: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. A wax guard can only be cleaned so many times. You might need to get a new wax guard when cleaning no longer works (so that you can make this easier, you can get a toolkit made specially for this).
  • A professional clean and check is required: In order to be sure that your hearing aid is functioning properly, it needs to be cleaned once per year. You should also think about having your hearing tested regularly to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • Your hearing aid shell needs to be cleaned: And let’s remember 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 some of that wax could make its way into the interior of the device while you’re swapping the guard (and this would clearly hamper the efficiency of your hearing aids).
  • You’ve replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Each model and maker has a different wax guard. Sound that is “weak” can be the result if you buy the wrong wax guard for your model.

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

I Changed my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

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

Similar to any complex device, hearing aids do call for some routine upkeep, and there is undoubtedly a learning curve involved. So just remember: It’s most likely time to replace your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is weak even when the battery is fully charged.