Hearing Health Blog

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

Your hearing aids don’t sound the way they should despite the fact that you just changed the batteries. Everything seems muffled, distant, and just a little off. It’s like some of the sound is missing. When you research the situation, a low battery seems to be the probable reason. And that’s aggravating because you’re very diligent about putting your hearing aid on the charging station before you go to sleep each night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t quite hear their discussion. This is precisely the situation you got hearing aids to avoid. You may want to check one more possibility before you become too annoyed about your hearing aids: earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Live in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, in most cases. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear design. Other models are designed to be placed inside the ear canal for best results. No matter where your hearing aid is situated, it will be close to an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

A Guard Against Earwax

Now, earwax does lots of important 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 many studies). So earwax isn’t a bad thing.

But hearing aids and earwax don’t always get along quite as well–the moisture in earwax, in particular, can interfere with the normal function of hearing aids. Fortunately, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid manufacturers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So a protective feature, known as wax guards, have been integrated 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

A wax guard is a tiny piece of technology that is incorporated into your hearing aid. Wax can’t go through but sound can. In order for your hearing aid to continue to work efficiently, a wax guard is essential. But issues can be created by the wax guard itself in certain circumstances:

  • Your hearing aid shell needs to be cleaned: When you’re changing your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be properly cleaned also. If your device shell is covered with earwax, it’s feasible some of that wax could find its way into the inside of the device while you’re changing the guard (and this would obviously impede the function of your hearing aids).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been replaced: As with 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 many times. 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).
  • When you got your new wax guards, you got the wrong one: Each model and maker has a different wax guard. If you buy the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions may be diminished, and that may result in the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • Cleaning your earwax guard needs to be done once every month: it’s been too long since you last cleaned them. A wax guard blocks the wax but it can become clogged and as with any type of filter, it needs to get cleaned. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is clogging up the wax guard and every now and then, you will need to clean it.
  • It’s time for a professional check and clean: In order to be sure that your hearing aid is working correctly, it needs to be cleaned once per year. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also get your hearing tested on a regular basis.

If you purchase a new hearing aid guard, it will most likely come with instructions, so it’s a good idea to follow those instructions to the best of your ability.

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

Once you’ve changed over your earwax guard, your hearing aids should start producing clearer sounds. You’ll be able to hear (and follow along with) conversations again. And that can be a big relief if you’ve been aggravated with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s certainly a learning curve when it comes to maintaining any complex device such as hearing aids. So just keep in mind: It’s probably time to replace your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is weak even with a fully charged battery.


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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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