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

You just replaced the batteries, but your hearing aids still don’t sound right. Everything sounds muffled, distant, and just a little off. It’s like some of the sound is missing. When you troubleshoot the problem with a simple Google search, the most likely solution seems like a low battery. Which annoys you because you charge the batteries every night.

Even so, here you are, struggling to hear your group of friends have a discussion around you. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. Before you get too angry with your hearing aids, there’s one more cause for this diminished sound you may want to check out: your own earwax.

A Residence in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids reside under normal circumstances. Even when you wear an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. Other models are designed to be positioned in the ear canal for ideal performance. Wherever your hearing aid is positioned, it will encounter an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does lots of important things for the health of your ears (numerous studies have demonstrated that earwax actually has anti-fungal and antibacterial qualities that can help stave off numerous infections). So earwax can actually be a good thing.

But earwax and hearing aids don’t always get along quite as well–the moisture in earwax, in particular, can impact the normal function of hearing aids. On the plus side, this isn’t really a surprise to hearing aid manufacturers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So modern hearing aids have safeguards, referred to as wax guards, created to stop earwax from interfering with the general performance of your device. And the “weak” sound might be caused by these wax guards.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

A wax guard is a tiny piece of technology that is bundled into your hearing aid. The idea is that the wax guard enables sound to get through, but not wax. Wax guards are essential for your hearing aid to continue working correctly. But troubles can be caused by the wax guard itself in certain situations:

  • When you bought your new wax guards, you got the wrong one: Every model and maker has a different wax guard. Sound that is “weak” can be the outcome if you buy the wrong wax guard for your model.
  • You have a dirty hearing aid shell: And let’s remember your hearing aid shell, which also has 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 inside of the hearing aid (and this would obviously hamper the function of your hearing aids).
  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for a while: Wax guards need replacing like any other filter. A wax guard can only be cleaned so much. You may have to get a new wax guard if cleaning no longer works (so that you can make this smoother, you can get a toolkit made specially for this).
  • Cleaning your earwax guard should be done once each month: it’s been too long since you last cleaned them. As with any filter, a wax guard can eventually become clogged with the very thing it’s been tasked with filtering out. Every once in a while, you’ll need to clean the guard or the wax caught up in it will start to block sound waves and mess up your hearing.
  • You need a professional clean and check: In order to be sure that your hearing aid is working properly, it should be cleaned once a year. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to get your hearing tested on a regular basis.

Be certain you follow the included instruction for best success with your wax guard.

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

You should hear much improved sound quality after you change your wax guard. You’ll be able to hear (and follow) conversations again. And that’s a huge relief if you’ve been annoyed with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s certainly a learning curve with regards to maintaining any specialized device like hearing aids. So don’t forget: It’s most likely time to replace your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is weak even with a fully charged battery.

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