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

Your hearing aids don’t sound right even though you recently changed the batteries. Everything sounds distant, muffled, and not right. It’s like some of the sound is lacking. When you try to diagnose the issue with a basic Google search, the most probable answer seems like a low battery. And that’s irritating because you’re very careful about putting your hearing aid on the charging station before you go to bed each night.

Nevertheless, here you are, struggling to hear your group of friends have a discussion near you. You bought hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. You may want to check out one more possibility before you get too angry about your hearing aids: earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Reside in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids live under typical circumstances. Even when you use an over-the-ear model, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for ideal efficiency, other versions have been created to be placed directly in the ear canal. Regardless of where your hearing aid is positioned, it will be close to an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does some important things for the health of your ears (numerous studies have revealed that earwax ,in fact, has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can help stave off various infections). So earwax is not a negative thing.

But the interaction between hearing aids and earwax is not always so good–the moisture in earwax, particularly, can impact the standard operation of hearing aids. The good thing is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

So modern hearing aids have safeguards, called wax guards, designed to stop earwax from impacting the general 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 tiny piece of technology that is integrated into your hearing aid. The idea is that the wax guard lets sound to pass through, but not wax. Wax guards are indispensable for your hearing aid to keep working correctly. But issues can be created by the wax guard itself in certain circumstances:

  • When you bought your new wax guards, you got the wrong model: Most hearing aid makers have their own special wax guard design. Sound that is “weak” can be the outcome if you get the wrong wax guard for your model.
  • Cleaning your earwax guard should be done once every month: it’s been too long since you’ve cleaned them. Much like any filter, a wax guard can eventually become clogged with the exact thing it’s been tasked with eliminating. Every every so often, you’ll have to clean the guard or the wax stuck in it will begin to block sound waves and mess up your hearing.
  • Your hearing aid shell is dirty: When you’re changing your earwax guard, it’s important that your hearing aid shell be correctly cleaned as well. If earwax is covering your hearing aid, it’s possible some of that wax could make its way into the inside of the device while you’re changing the guard (and this would obviously hamper the efficiency of your hearing aids).
  • A professional clean and check is needed: In order to be sure that your hearing aid is working properly, it needs to be cleaned once per year. And in order to be certain that your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also get your hearing tested on a regular basis.
  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for a while: Wax guards need replacing like any other filter. There’s only so much cleaning that can be done to a wax guard! When cleaning no longer does the trick, you may have to change your wax guard (you can buy a specialized toolkit to make this process easier).

If you purchase a new hearing aid guard, it will likely come with instructions, so it’s a good idea to follow those instructions the best you can.

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

Once you’ve changed your earwax guard, your hearing aids should begin providing clearer sounds. Hearing and following conversation should get much better. And if you’ve been coping with inferior sound quality from your hearing aids, this can be a real relief.

As with any complex device, hearing aids do call for some regular maintenance, and there is certainly a learning curve involved. So just remember: 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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