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

You just replaced 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 is missing. When you research the situation, a battery issue appears to be the probable cause. And that’s frustrating because you’re really diligent about placing your hearing aid on the charging platform before you go to bed every night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t really hear their conversation. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. Before you get too mad with your hearing aids, there’s one more cause for this weak sound you might want to check out: your own earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Reside in Your Ears

Your hearing aids reside in your ear, in most cases. Even when you wear an over-the-ear model, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for best efficiency, other designs 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.

A Guard Against Earwax

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

But hearing aids and earwax don’t always work together quite as well–earwax moisture, especially, can impact the normal function of hearing aids. The good news is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

So a protective feature, known as wax guards, have been put in place so that the normal function of your device isn’t impeded by earwax. And those wax guards could be what’s causing the “weak” sound.

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a little piece of technology in your hearing aid called a wax guard. Wax can’t get through but sound can. In order for your hearing aid to continue to work properly, a wax guard is indispensable. But troubles can be caused by the wax guard itself in certain situations:

  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) maintenance routine. As with any filter, a wax guard can eventually become clogged with the very 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 start to block sound waves and damage your hearing.
  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for some time: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. There’s only so much cleaning you can do to a wax guard! You may need to get a new wax guard when cleaning no longer works (in order to make this easier, you can purchase a toolkit made specially for this).
  • It’s time for a professional clean and check: At least once a year you should get your hearing aid professionally checked and cleaned to be certain it’s functioning correctly. You should also consider getting your hearing tested on a regular basis to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • You’ve replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: 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 also. If earwax is covering your hearing aid, it’s possible, while you’re changing the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the interior of the hearing aid (and, naturally, this would impede the function of the hearing aid).

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

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

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

There’s undoubtedly a learning curve when it comes to maintaining any complex device like hearing aids. So don’t forget: if your hearing aid is sounding weak and your batteries have a full charge, it could be time to change your earwax guard.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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