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

Your hearing aids don’t sound right despite the fact that you recently changed the batteries. Things just sound off, like they’re a little muffled and distant. It’s like you can’t hear the full sound you’re supposed to be getting. When you research the situation, a battery issue seems to be the probable cause. And that’s irritating because you’re very careful about setting your hearing aid on the charging station before you go to bed each night.

And yet, here you are, struggling to listen as your group of friends carry on a conversation near you. This is precisely the scenario you bought hearing aids to avoid. You may want to check one more possibility before you become too annoyed about your hearing aids: earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Reside in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids live under normal circumstances. Even when you use an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. Other versions are designed to be placed inside the ear canal for best results. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is positioned.

A Guard Against Earwax

Now, earwax does a lot of important things for the health of your ears (many studies have demonstrated that earwax actually has anti-fungal and antibacterial attributes that can help prevent numerous infections). So earwax is not a bad thing.

But the interaction between earwax and hearing aids is not always helpful–the standard operation of your hearing aid can be hampered by earwax, especially the moisture. Luckily, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid manufacturers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So a safety component, known as wax guards, have been integrated so that the effective function of your device isn’t hampered by earwax. And those wax guards could be what’s creating the “weak” sound.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

A wax guard is a small piece of technology that is bundled into your hearing aid. Wax can’t get through but sound can. Wax guards are indispensable for your hearing aid to continue working properly. But troubles can be created by the wax guard itself in certain situations:

  • Cleaning your earwax guard should be done once each month: it’s been too long since you’ve cleaned them. A wax guard filters out the wax but it can become clogged and just like any kind of filter, it has to get cleaned. Every every so often, you’ll need to clean the guard or the wax stuck in it will start to block sound waves and mess up your hearing.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been replaced: Wax guards need replacing like any other filter. A wax guard can only be cleaned so many times. When cleaning no longer does the trick, you might have to replace your wax guard (so that you can make this smoother, you can purchase a toolkit made specifically for this).
  • A professional check and clean is required: In order to be certain that your hearing aid is functioning correctly, it should be cleaned once per year. You should also think about having your hearing examined regularly to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • 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 your hearing aid shell is covered with earwax, it’s feasible some of that wax may find its way into the interior of the device while you’re swapping the guard (and this would clearly hamper the function of your hearing aids).
  • You have replaced your wax guard with the wrong model: Each model and maker has a different wax guard. If you purchase the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions could be impaired, and that may lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”

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

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

You should observe much better sound quality after you switch your wax guard. You’ll be able to hear (and follow along with) conversations again. And that can be a real relief if you’ve been annoyed with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s definitely a learning curve in regards to maintaining any complex device such as hearing aids. So just keep in mind: It’s likely time to replace your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is poor even with a fully charged battery.

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