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 recently changed the batteries. Everything sounds muffled, distant, and not right. It’s like you can’t hear the full sound you’re supposed to be receiving. When you try to diagnose the problem with a basic Google search, the most likely answer seems like a low battery. Which annoys you because you keep the batteries charged each night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t really hear their conversation. This is exactly the situation you bought hearing aids to avoid. You may want to check out one more possibility before you become too aggravated about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Home in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, usually. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear model. Other versions are manufactured to be positioned in the ear canal for best performance. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is positioned.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does a lot of great things for the health of your ears (many studies have shown that earwax actually has anti-fungal and antibacterial attributes that can help ward off various infections). So earwax isn’t a bad thing.

But the interaction between hearing aids and earwax is not always so good–the standard operation of your hearing aid can be hindered by earwax, especially the moisture. On the plus side, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid makers and earwax doesn’t usually move in unpredictable ways.

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

Things to Know About Wax Guards

A wax guard is a tiny piece of technology that is bundled into your hearing aid. Wax can’t get through but sound can. Wax guards are essential for your hearing aid to keep working properly. But issues can be caused by the wax guard itself in certain situations:

  • It’s time for a professional clean and check: In order to be certain that your hearing aid is working correctly, it should be cleaned once every year. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to have your hearing tested regularly.
  • When you got your new wax guards, you got the wrong one: Most hearing aid makers have their own unique wax guard design. If you purchase 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.”
  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for a while: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. A wax guard can only be cleaned so many times. You might have to get a new wax guard when cleaning doesn’t (so that you can make this easier, you can buy a toolkit made specifically for this).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard needs to be a monthly (or so) maintenance routine. Much like any filter, a wax guard can eventually become clogged with the very thing it’s been tasked with filtering out. Every once in a while, you’ll have to clean the guard or the wax caught up in it will begin to block sound waves and damage your hearing.
  • You have an unclean hearing aid shell: When you’re changing your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be properly cleaned as well. If earwax is clogging your device, it’s possible, while you’re changing the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the inside of the hearing aid (and, naturally, this would hamper the function of the hearing aid).

Be certain you use the included instruction for best results with your wax guard.

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

Once you’ve changed over your earwax guard, your hearing aids should start producing clearer sounds. Hearing and following conversation should be much easier. And if you’ve been dealing with poor sound from your hearing aids, this can be a real relief.

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