HEARING TIPS

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 sounds distant, muffled, and just a little off. It’s like some of the sound isn’t there. When you try to diagnose the problem with a basic Google search, the most probable solution seems to be a low battery. Which annoys you because you keep the batteries charged every night.

But here you are with a group of friends and you can’t really hear their conversation. This is precisely the scenario you got hearing aids to avoid. Before you get too aggravated with your hearing aids, there’s one more reason for this diminished sound you may want to check out: your own earwax.

A Residence in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids reside under normal circumstances. Even when you wear an over-the-ear model, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for ideal efficiency, other models have been created to be placed 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 lots 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 many studies). So earwax can actually be a good thing.

But the relationship between hearing aids and earwax isn’t always helpful–the normal operation of your hearing aid can be impeded by earwax, especially the moisture. The good news is, this isn’t really a surprise to hearing aid manufacturers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

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

Things to Know About Wax Guards

There is a small piece of technology inside your hearing aid called a wax guard. The idea is that the wax guard enables sound to go through, but not wax. So that your hearing aid can continue to work effectively, a wax guard is essential. But problems can be caused by the wax guard itself in some cases:

  • A professional clean and check is required: At least once every year you should have your hearing aid professionally checked and cleaned to make sure it’s functioning properly. You should also consider having your hearing evaluated regularly to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been changed: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. There’s only so much cleaning you can do to a wax guard! You may need to get a new wax guard if cleaning no longer works (you can get a specialized toolkit to make this process smoother).
  • You have replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Each model and maker has a different wax guard. 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 change your wax guard. If earwax is covering your device, it’s feasible some of that wax could find its way into the interior of the device while you’re swapping the guard (and, obviously, this would hamper the function of the hearing aid).
  • Cleaning your earwax guard should be done once a month: it’s been too long since you last cleaned them. A wax guard filters out the wax but sometimes it gets clogged and as with any kind of filter, it needs to get cleaned. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is clogging up the wax guard and every once in a while, you will want to clean it.

If you get a new hearing aid guard, it will likely come with instructions, so it’s a good idea to follow those instructions the best you can.

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

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

Like with any specialized device, hearing aids do call for some regular upkeep, and there’s undoubtedly 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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