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

Your hearing aids aren’t sounding the way they should despite the fact that you recently changed the batteries. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little bit muffled and distant. It’s like you aren’t hearing the full sound you’re supposed to be experiencing. When you troubleshoot the issue with a simple Google search, the most probable solution seems to be a low battery. Which annoys you because you charge the batteries each night.

But here you are with a group of friends and you can’t quite hear their discussion. You bought hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. You may want to check out one more possibility before you get too annoyed about your hearing aids: earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Reside in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, normally. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear design. And for optimal performance, other designs have been created to be positioned directly in the ear canal. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is situated.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does lots of great things for the health of your ears ((numerous 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 good thing.

But the relationship 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. The good news is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

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

Wax Guard Etiquette

A wax guard is a tiny piece of technology that is integrated into your hearing aid. The concept is that the wax guard lets sound to pass through, but not wax. In order for your hearing aid to continue to work efficiently, a wax guard is essential. But problems can be created by the wax guard itself in certain circumstances:

  • Your hearing aid shell is dirty: And let’s not forget your hearing aid shell, which also has to be cleaned when you switch out your wax guard. If your hearing aid shell is covered with earwax, it’s possible some of that wax could make its way into the inside of the device while you’re swapping the guard (and, obviously, this would impede the function of the hearing aid).
  • Cleaning your earwax guard should be done once a month: it’s been too long since you last cleaned them. Much like any filter, a wax guard can ultimately become clogged with the exact thing it’s been tasked with eliminating. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is clogging up the wax guard and every now and then, you will need to clean it.
  • You need a professional clean and check: In order to be sure that your hearing aid is functioning correctly, it should be cleaned once a year. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also get your hearing tested routinely.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been replaced: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. A wax guard can only be cleaned so many times. You might have to get a new wax guard if cleaning doesn’t (in order to make this smoother, you can buy a toolkit made specifically for this).
  • When you purchased 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 result if you buy the wrong wax guard for your model.

If you get a new hearing aid guard, it will most likely 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

You should hear substantially better sound quality once you switch your wax guard. Hearing and following discussions should get much easier. And that can be a huge relief if you’ve been disappointed with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s undoubtedly a learning curve in regards to maintaining any specialized device like hearing aids. So just keep in mind: It’s 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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