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

You just exchanged the batteries, but your hearing aids just don’t sound the way they should. Everything sounds distant, muffled, and just a little off. It’s like some of the sound isn’t there. When you try to diagnose the problem with a basic Google search, the most plausible answer seems to be a low battery. And that’s aggravating because you’re quite diligent about placing your hearing aid on the charging station before you go to sleep each night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t really hear their discussion. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. Before you get too aggravated with your hearing aids, there’s one more reason for this diminished sound you may want to check: your own earwax.

A Residence in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, usually. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear model. And for optimal performance, other versions have been designed to be placed directly in the ear canal. Wherever your hearing aid is positioned, it will encounter an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does a lot of important things for the health of your ears ((numerous infection can actually be prevented because of the antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities of earwax, according to numerous studies). So earwax can actually be a positive thing.

But the interaction between hearing aids and earwax isn’t always so good–the moisture in earwax, in particular, can interfere with the normal operation of hearing aids. On the plus side, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid makers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So modern hearing aids have shields, known as wax guards, designed to stop earwax from impacting the normal function of your device. And those wax guards may be what’s creating the “weak” sound.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

A wax guard is a small piece of technology that is integrated into your hearing aid. Wax can’t get through but sound can. Wax guards are a must for your hearing aid to keep working properly. But there are some situations where the wax guard itself might cause some problems:

  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) upkeep routine. As with any filter, a wax guard can ultimately become clogged with the very thing it’s been tasked with eliminating. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is clogging up the wax guard and every once in a while, you will want to clean it.
  • It’s time for a professional check and clean: In order to be sure that your hearing aid is working correctly, it should be cleaned once every year. You should also think about getting your hearing checked on a regular basis to be certain your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • When you bought your new wax guards, you got the wrong one: Most hearing aid makers have their own unique wax guard design. Sound that is “weak” can be the result if you get the wrong wax guard for your model.
  • You have an unclean hearing aid shell: When you’re changing your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be correctly cleaned as well. If your device shell is plugged with earwax, it’s possible some of that wax could 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).
  • 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 adequately perform its job. A wax guard can only be cleaned so much. You might have to get a new wax guard when cleaning doesn’t (so that you can make this easier, you can purchase a toolkit made specifically for this).

Be sure you use the included instruction for best success with your wax guard.

I Changed my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

Once you’ve changed your earwax guard, your hearing aids should begin providing clearer sounds. Hearing and following conversation should become much easier. And that’s a big relief if you’ve been annoyed with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s certainly a learning curve in regards to maintaining any complex device like hearing aids. So don’t forget: It’s likely 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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