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

Your hearing aids aren’t sounding the way they should even though you just changed the batteries. Everything sounds muffled, distant, and not right. It seems like some of the sound is missing. When you try to diagnose the issue with a simple Google search, the most plausible answer seems to be a low battery. And that’s frustrating because you’re quite careful about putting 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 discussion. This is precisely the situation you got hearing aids to avoid. Before you get too mad with your hearing aids, there’s one more reason for this weak sound you might want to check: your own earwax.

A Home in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids reside under typical circumstances. Even when you wear an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for ideal 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 some important things for the health of your ears (many studies have revealed that earwax ,in fact, has anti-fungal and antibacterial qualities that can help stave off numerous infections). So earwax can actually be a good thing.

But the interaction between hearing aids and earwax is not always so good–earwax moisture, especially, can interfere with the standard operation of hearing aids. Fortunately, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

So modern hearing aids have shields, called wax guards, created to keep earwax from interfering with the normal function of your device. And the “weak” sound may be brought about by these wax guards.

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a tiny piece of technology inside your hearing aid called a wax guard. Wax can’t go through but sound can. Wax guards are crucial for your hearing aid to keep working properly. But there are some circumstances where the wax guard itself might cause some problems:

  • You’ve replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Most hearing aid makers have their own special wax guard design. If you buy the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions may be diminished, and that could result in the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been changed: Like any other filter, eventually, the wax guard will no longer be able to effectively perform its task. A wax guard can only be cleaned so much. You might need to get a new wax guard if cleaning doesn’t (you can buy a specialized toolkit to make this process smoother).
  • You need a professional check and clean: At least once a year you should have your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to be certain it’s working properly. You should also think about having your hearing tested on a regular basis to be certain your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • Your hearing aid shell needs to be cleaned: And let’s remember your hearing aid shell, which also has to be cleaned when you switch out your wax guard. If your device shell is covered with earwax, it’s possible some of that wax may find its way into the inside of the device while you’re changing the guard (and this would obviously hinder the function of your hearing aids).
  • Cleaning your earwax guard should be done once a month: it’s been too long since you’ve cleaned them. A wax guard filters out the wax but it can become clogged and just like any type of filter, it has to be cleaned. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is plugging up the wax guard and once in a while, you will want to clean it.

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

I Changed my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

You should hear substantially better sound quality after you change your wax guard. Hearing and following discussions should be much better. And that’s a big relief if you’ve been discouraged with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to maintaining any complex device like hearing aids. So don’t forget: It’s most likely time to replace your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is poor even with a fully charged battery.

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