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

You just changed the batteries, but your hearing aids just don’t sound the way they should. Everything sounds distant, muffled, and not right. 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 likely solution seems to be a low battery. And that’s frustrating because you’re very diligent about placing your hearing aid on the charging station before you go to sleep each night.

But here you are with a group of friends and you can’t really hear their discussion. This is exactly the scenario you got hearing aids to prevent. You might want to check one more possibility before you get too aggravated about your hearing aids: earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Reside in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids live under typical circumstances. Even when you wear an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for best performance, other models have been created to be placed directly in the ear canal. No matter where your hearing aid is positioned, it will encounter an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does lots of great things for the health of your ears ((many infection can actually be avoided because of the antibacterial and anti-fungal properties of earwax, according to numerous studies). So earwax can actually be a good thing.

But hearing aids and earwax don’t always work together quite as well–earwax moisture, especially, can interfere with the standard function of hearing aids. Fortunately, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

So a safety feature, called wax guards, have been integrated so that the effective function of your device isn’t impeded by earwax. And the “weak” sound could be caused by these wax guards.

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a tiny piece of technology in your hearing aid known as a wax guard. The concept is that the wax guard enables sound to pass through, but not wax. 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 problems:

  • A professional clean and check is needed: At least once per year you need to have your hearing aid professionally checked and cleaned to make sure it’s functioning correctly. And in order to be certain that your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also have your hearing tested on a regular basis.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been replaced: Just like any other filter, eventually, the wax guard will no longer be able to adequately perform its job. A wax guard can only be cleaned so much. When cleaning no longer does the trick, you may have to change your wax guard (in order to make this smoother, you can buy a toolkit made specially for this).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) maintenance task. As with any filter, a wax guard can ultimately become clogged with the exact thing it’s been tasked with eliminating. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is clogging up the wax guard and on occasion, you will need to clean it.
  • You have replaced your wax guard with the wrong 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.”
  • You have an unclean hearing aid shell: 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 possible some of that wax may find its way into the interior of the device while you’re changing the guard (and, naturally, this would hinder the function of the hearing aid).

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

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

You should notice much improved sound quality after you change your wax guard. Hearing and following discussions should be much better. And if you’ve been coping with poor sound from your hearing aids, this can be quite a relief.

Like with any complex device, hearing aids do call for some regular upkeep, and there is undoubtedly a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: It’s probably time to change your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is weak even with a fully charged battery.

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