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

Your hearing aids don’t sound right even though you just changed the batteries. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little bit dull and distant. It seems like some of the sound is missing. When you troubleshoot the issue with a simple Google search, the most likely answer seems to be a low battery. Which frustrates you because you charge the batteries every night.

Nevertheless, here you are, fighting to listen as your group of friends carry on a conversation near you. This is precisely the situation you bought hearing aids to prevent. Before you get too aggravated with your hearing aids, there’s one more cause for this weak sound you may want to check out: your own earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Reside in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, in most cases. Even when you use an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for optimal performance, other versions have been designed to be placed directly in the ear canal. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is situated.

A Guard Against Earwax

Now, earwax does lots of important things for the health of your ears ((many 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 isn’t always helpful–earwax moisture, especially, can impact the normal operation of hearing aids. The good news is, this isn’t really a surprise to hearing aid makers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So modern hearing aids have shields, called wax guards, created to prevent earwax from impacting the normal performance of your device. And those wax guards could be what’s causing the “weak” sound.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

A wax guard is a small piece of technology that is incorporated into your hearing aid. The idea is that the wax guard allows sound to go through, but not wax. Wax guards are essential for your hearing aid to continue working properly. But there are some situations where the wax guard itself could cause some troubles:

  • 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 earwax is clogging your hearing aid, it’s possible, while you’re changing the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the interior of the hearing aid (and this would obviously impede the function of your hearing aids).
  • A professional clean and check is needed: In order to be certain that your hearing aid is working correctly, it should be cleaned once per year. You should also think about getting your hearing tested regularly to be certain your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • 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! You may need to get a new wax guard when cleaning doesn’t (in order to make this smoother, you can buy a toolkit made specifically for this).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard was cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard needs to be a monthly (or so) maintenance routine. A wax guard filters out the wax but it can become clogged and just like any kind of filter, it has to get cleaned. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is clogging up the wax guard and on occasion, you will want to clean it.
  • You have replaced your wax guard with the wrong model: Every 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 result in the hearing aid sounding “weak.”

If you get 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

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

Similar to any specialized device, hearing aids do require some regular upkeep, and there’s definitely a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: It’s most likely time to change your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is poor even when the battery is fully charged.

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