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

You just changed the batteries, but your hearing aids still don’t sound the way they should. Everything seems dull, distant, and just a little off. It’s like you can’t hear the full sound you’re supposed to be getting. When you try to diagnose the problem with a simple Google search, the most plausible solution seems like a low battery. And that’s irritating because you’re really careful about placing your hearing aid on the charging station before you go to sleep every night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t quite hear their discussion. This is exactly the scenario you bought hearing aids to prevent. You may want to check one more possibility before you become too aggravated about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Residence in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids reside under typical circumstances. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear model. Other versions are manufactured to be placed inside the ear canal for optimal performance. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor no matter where your hearing aid is positioned.

A Guard Against Earwax

Now, earwax does a lot of great 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 many studies). So earwax is not a bad thing.

But hearing aids and earwax don’t always get along quite as well–earwax moisture, particularly, can impact the normal operation of hearing aids. The good thing is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

So modern hearing aids have shields, known as wax guards, created to stop earwax from interfering with the general function of your device. And those wax guards could be what’s causing the “weak” sound.

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a tiny piece of technology inside your hearing aid known as a wax guard. Wax can’t pass through but sound can. Wax guards are crucial for your hearing aid to continue working correctly. But there are some situations where the wax guard itself might cause some problems:

  • Your hearing aid shell is dirty: When you’re switching 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 some of that wax could make its way into the interior of the device while you’re changing the guard (and, naturally, this would impede the function of the hearing aid).
  • You have replaced your wax guard with the wrong model: Every model and maker has a different wax guard. Sound that is “weak” can be the outcome if you purchase 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 properly, it should be cleaned once every year. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also get your hearing tested regularly.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been changed: As with any other filter, sooner or later the wax guard will no longer be able to effectively perform its task. A wax guard can only be cleaned so many times. You might need to get a new wax guard when cleaning doesn’t (you can buy a special toolkit to make this process smoother).
  • Cleaning your earwax guard needs to be done once every month: it’s been too long since you’ve cleaned them. A wax guard filters out the wax but sometimes it gets clogged and as with any kind of filter, it has to get cleaned. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is plugging up the wax guard and on occasion, you will need to clean it.

If you purchase a new hearing aid guard, it will probably come with instructions, so it’s a good plan to follow those instructions to the best of your ability.

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

Once you’ve changed over your earwax guard, your hearing aids should begin providing clearer sounds. You’ll be able to hear (and follow) conversations again. And that’s a real relief if you’ve been frustrated with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s certainly a learning curve when it comes to maintaining any complex device like hearing aids. So just keep in mind: 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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