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

You just replaced the batteries, but your hearing aids just don’t sound the way they should. Everything seems distant, muffled, and just a little off. It seems like some of the sound is missing. When you try to diagnose the issue with a basic Google search, the most probable solution seems like a low battery. And that’s aggravating because you’re very careful about placing your hearing aid on the charging platform before you go to sleep each night.

But here you are with a group of friends and you can’t quite hear their conversation. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. Before you get too upset with your hearing aids, there’s one more cause for this diminished sound you may want to check: your own earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Live in Your Ears

Your ears are the place where your hearing aids live under typical circumstances. Even when you wear an over-the-ear model, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for best efficiency, other versions have been created to be positioned directly in the ear canal. Regardless of where your hearing aid is positioned, it will be close to an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

A Shield Against Earwax

Now, earwax does lots of great things for the health of your ears (many studies have shown that earwax actually has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can help stave off various infections). So earwax can actually be a good thing.

But the interaction between hearing aids and earwax is not always so good–the normal operation of your hearing aid can be hampered by earwax, especially the moisture. The good news is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well aware of it.

So modern hearing aids have safeguards, referred to as wax guards, created to keep earwax from interfering with the general function of your device. And the “weak” sound might 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. Wax can’t pass through but sound can. So that your hearing aid can keep working efficiently, a wax guard is crucial. But troubles can be caused by the wax guard itself in some situations:

  • You’ve replaced your wax guard with the wrong model: Most hearing aid providers have their own special wax guard design. Sound that is “weak” can be the result if you buy the wrong wax guard for your model.
  • A professional clean and check is required: In order to be certain that your hearing aid is functioning correctly, it should be cleaned once per year. And in order to be certain that your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to have your hearing tested regularly.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been replaced: Wax guards need replacing like any other filter. There’s only so much cleaning that can be done to a wax guard! When cleaning no longer does the trick, you may have to replace your wax guard (so that you can make this easier, you can buy a toolkit made specially for this).
  • You have a dirty hearing aid shell: When you’re changing your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be correctly cleaned as well. If earwax is clogging your device, it’s feasible, while you’re changing the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the interior of the hearing aid (and this would clearly hinder the efficiency of your hearing aids).
  • Cleaning your earwax guard needs to be done once every month: it’s been too long since you last cleaned them. A wax guard blocks the wax but it can become clogged and like any kind of filter, it needs to be cleaned. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is clogging up the wax guard and on occasion, you will need to clean it.

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

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

You should notice much better sound quality once you switch your wax guard. Hearing and following conversation should get much better. And that’s a big relief if you’ve been discouraged with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

Much like any specialized device, hearing aids do require some routine maintenance, and there is definitely a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: if your hearing aid is sounding weak and your batteries have a full charge, it may be time to replace your earwax guard.

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