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

Your hearing aids don’t sound right even though you just changed the batteries. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little bit dull and far away. It’s like some of the sound is lacking. When you try to diagnose the problem with a simple Google search, the most probable answer seems like 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 really hear their discussion. You bought hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. You might want to check one more possibility before you become too aggravated about your hearing aids: earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Live in Your Ears

Your ears are the place where your hearing aids live under normal circumstances. Even when you wear an over-the-ear model, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for optimal performance, other models have been designed to be placed directly in the ear canal. No matter 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 great things for the health of your ears ((various infection can actually be prevented because of the antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities of earwax, according to various studies). So earwax isn’t a bad thing.

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

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

Things to Know About Wax Guards

A wax guard is a little piece of technology that is bundled into your hearing aid. The idea is that the wax guard allows sound to get through, but not wax. Wax guards are essential for your hearing aid to keep working properly. But troubles can be created by the wax guard itself in some cases:

  • When you purchased your new wax guards, you got the wrong model: Most hearing aid providers have their own specialized wax guard design. Sound that is “weak” can be the result if you purchase the wrong wax guard for your model.
  • Your hearing aid shell needs to be cleaned: And let’s remember your hearing aid shell, which also needs to be cleaned when you switch out your wax guard. If earwax is clogging your hearing aid, it’s feasible, while you’re swapping out the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the inside of the hearing aid (and this would obviously hamper the function of your hearing aids).
  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for a while: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. There’s only so much cleaning you can do to a wax guard! When cleaning no longer does the trick, you may have to change your wax guard (so that you can make this easier, you can get a toolkit made specially for this).
  • Cleaning your earwax guard needs to be done once a month: it’s been too long since you’ve cleaned them. A wax guard blocks the wax but sometimes it gets clogged and as with any kind of filter, it has to get cleaned. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is clogging up the wax guard and every once in a while, you will need to clean it.
  • It’s time for a professional clean and check: In order to be certain that your hearing aid is working properly, it should be cleaned once a 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.

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

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

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

Just like any specialized device, hearing aids do call for some regular upkeep, and there’s definitely a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: It’s probably time to replace your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is weak even when the battery is fully charged.