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

Your hearing aids don’t sound right despite the fact that you recently changed the batteries. Everything sounds muffled, distant, and just a little off. It’s like some of the sound isn’t there. When you do some basic research, a battery issue appears to be the probable reason. And that’s irritating because you’re very diligent about setting your hearing aid on the charging platform before you go to sleep each night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t quite hear their discussion. This is exactly the scenario you bought hearing aids to avoid. You might want to check one more possibility before you get too aggravated about your hearing aids: earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Reside in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids live under normal circumstances. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear design. And for ideal performance, other designs have been designed to be positioned directly in the ear canal. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor no matter where your hearing aid is situated.

A Shield Against Earwax

Now, earwax does a lot of great things for the health of your ears (many studies have demonstrated that earwax ,in fact, has anti-fungal and antibacterial attributes that can help stave off numerous infections). So earwax can actually be a good thing.

But earwax and hearing aids don’t always get along quite as well–earwax moisture, particularly, can impact the normal function of hearing aids. The good news is, this isn’t really a surprise to hearing aid makers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So a protective feature, called wax guards, have been put in place so that the effective function of your device isn’t impeded by earwax. And the “weak” sound may be brought about by these wax guards.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

There is a little piece of technology in your hearing aid called a wax guard. The idea is that the wax guard lets sound to pass through, but not wax. In order for your hearing aid to keep working efficiently, a wax guard is crucial. But there are some instances where the wax guard itself might cause some problems:

  • When you got your new wax guards, you got the wrong one: Most hearing aid makers have their own special wax guard design. If you get the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions could be diminished, and that could result in the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been replaced: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. A wax guard can only be cleaned so many times. You may need to get a new wax guard when cleaning doesn’t (you can get a special toolkit to make this process easier).
  • You need a professional check and clean: At least once per year you should get your hearing aid professionally checked and cleaned to make sure it’s working properly. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to get your hearing tested regularly.
  • You have a dirty hearing aid shell: When you’re changing your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be properly cleaned as well. If your device shell is covered with earwax, it’s feasible, while you’re swapping out the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the interior of the hearing aid (and this would clearly impede the efficiency of your hearing aids).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard was cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) upkeep routine. A wax guard blocks the wax but sometimes it gets clogged and as with any type of filter, it has to be cleaned. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is plugging up the wax guard and every once in a while, you will want to clean it.

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

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

Once you’ve changed your earwax guard, your hearing aids should begin providing clearer sounds. Hearing and following conversation should become much easier. And that can be a huge relief if you’ve been aggravated with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

Like with any complex device, hearing aids do require some routine maintenance, and there is undoubtedly a learning curve involved. So just remember: It’s most likely time to change your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is weak even with a fully charged battery.

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