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 seems distant, dull, and just a little off. It’s like you can’t hear the full sound you’re supposed to be getting. When you troubleshoot the problem with a simple Google search, the most plausible answer seems like a low battery. And that’s irritating because you’re really careful about putting your hearing aid on the charging platform before you go to sleep every night.

Nevertheless, here you are, fighting to hear your bunch of friends carry on a discussion around you. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact situation. You might want to check out one more possibility before you get too annoyed about your hearing aids: earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Live in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids reside under normal circumstances. Even when you wear an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. Other versions are manufactured to be positioned inside the ear canal for best efficiency. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is situated.

A Guard Against Earwax

Now, earwax does lots of great things for the health of your ears (many studies have demonstrated that earwax ,in fact, has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can help stave off many infections). So earwax isn’t a bad thing.

But hearing aids and earwax don’t always work together quite as well–the normal operation of your hearing aid can be hampered by earwax, especially the moisture. On the plus side, this isn’t really a surprise to hearing aid manufacturers and earwax doesn’t usually move in unpredictable ways.

So a safety component, called wax guards, have been integrated so that the effective function of your device isn’t hampered by earwax. And the “weak” sound may be caused by these wax guards.

Wax Guard Etiquette

A wax guard is a small piece of technology that is incorporated into your hearing aid. Wax can’t pass through but sound can. So that your hearing aid can keep working properly, a wax guard is crucial. But problems can be created by the wax guard itself in some cases:

  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard needs to be a monthly (or so) maintenance task. As with any filter, a wax guard can ultimately become clogged with the very 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 mess up your hearing.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been replaced: Like any other filter, eventually, the wax guard will no longer be able to effectively perform its job. A wax guard can only be cleaned so much. You might have to get a new wax guard when cleaning no longer works (you can get a special toolkit to make this process smoother).
  • Your hearing aid shell is dirty: When you’re switching your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be correctly cleaned as well. If earwax is covering your hearing aid, it’s possible some of that wax could find its way into the inside of the device while you’re swapping the guard (and this would obviously hamper the function of your hearing aids).
  • A professional check and clean is required: At least once every year you should have your hearing aid professionally cleaned and checked to make certain it’s working properly. And in order to be certain that your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to get your hearing tested regularly.
  • You’ve replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Every model and maker has a different wax guard. If you purchase the wrong model for your specific hearing aid, your device’s functions may be impaired, and that could lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”

If you get 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?

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

Just like any specialized device, hearing aids do call for some regular upkeep, and there is definitely a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: if your hearing aid sounds weak and your batteries are fully charged, it might be time to replace your earwax guard.

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