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

Your hearing aids don’t sound right even though you just changed the batteries. Everything seems distant, dull, and just a little off. It seems like some of the sound isn’t there. When you do some basic research, a low battery seems to be the most likely reason. Which frustrates you because you charge the batteries each night.

And yet, here you are, struggling to hear your bunch of friends have a conversation near you. This is precisely the scenario you bought hearing aids to avoid. Before you get too mad with your hearing aids, there’s one more cause for this weak sound you may want to check out: your own earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Live in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids live under normal circumstances. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear model. Other models are designed to be placed inside the ear canal for best efficiency. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is situated.

A Shield Against Earwax

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

But the relationship between hearing aids and earwax isn’t always helpful–earwax moisture, particularly, can interfere with the normal function of hearing aids. The good news is, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid makers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So modern hearing aids have safeguards, called wax guards, designed to prevent earwax from interfering with the normal function of your device. And those wax guards might be what’s creating the “weak” sound.

Wax Guard Etiquette

A wax guard is a little piece of technology that is integrated into your hearing aid. Wax can’t get through but sound can. In order for your hearing aid to keep working properly, a wax guard is essential. But problems can be caused by the wax guard itself in some situations:

  • It’s time for a professional check and clean: At least once per year you should have your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to make sure it’s functioning correctly. You should also think about getting your hearing evaluated regularly to be certain your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • You have replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Every model and maker has a different wax guard. Sound that is “weak” can be the result 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 once in a while, you’ll need to clean the guard or the wax stuck in it will start to block sound waves and damage your hearing.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been changed: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. A wax guard can only be cleaned so many times. You may have to get a new wax guard when cleaning doesn’t (you can purchase a special toolkit to make this process smoother).
  • You have a dirty hearing aid shell: And let’s remember your hearing aid shell, which also needs to be cleaned when you switch out your wax guard. If earwax is covering your hearing aid, it’s possible, while you’re swapping out the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the interior of the hearing aid (and, obviously, this would hinder the function of the hearing aid).

Make sure you follow the included instruction for best results with your wax guard.

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

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

There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to maintaining any complex device such as hearing aids. So just remember: if your hearing aid is sounding weak and your batteries are fully charged, it may be time to replace your earwax guard.

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