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

Your hearing aids aren’t sounding right even though you just changed the batteries. Things just sound off, like they’re a little bit dull and distant. It’s like you aren’t hearing the full sound you’re supposed to be getting. When you troubleshoot the problem with a basic Google search, the most probable answer seems like a low battery. Which annoys you because you charge the batteries every night.

Nevertheless, here you are, struggling to hear your bunch of friends have a discussion near you. This is precisely the scenario you got hearing aids to prevent. 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 the place where your hearing aids live under normal circumstances. Even when you use an over-the-ear model, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for best efficiency, other designs have been created to be positioned directly in the ear canal. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is positioned.

A Guard Against Earwax

Now, earwax does a lot of great 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 various studies). So earwax can actually be a positive thing.

But the interaction between hearing aids and earwax is not always so good–the standard operation of your hearing aid can be hampered by earwax, peculiarly the moisture. Luckily, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid makers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So a safety component, known as wax guards, have been put in place so that the effective 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 little piece of technology in your hearing aid known as a wax guard. Wax can’t get through but sound can. Wax guards are important for your hearing aid to keep working properly. But issues can be created by the wax guard itself in some situations:

  • Cleaning your earwax guard needs to be done once a month: it’s been too long since you last cleaned them. A wax guard filters out the wax but it can become clogged and like any type of filter, it has to be 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.
  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for a while: As with any other filter, sooner or later the wax guard will no longer be able to effectively perform its job. A wax guard can only be cleaned so many times. When cleaning no longer does the trick, you may have to replace your wax guard (you can purchase a special toolkit to make this process easier).
  • When you bought your new wax guards, you got the wrong one: Most hearing aid manufacturers have their own unique wax guard design. If you buy the wrong model for your specific hearing aid, your device’s functions may be diminished, and that may lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • You have a dirty hearing aid shell: And let’s not forget your hearing aid shell, which also needs to be cleaned when you switch out your wax guard. If your hearing aid shell is plugged with earwax, it’s feasible, while you’re swapping out the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the inside of the hearing aid (and, obviously, this would hinder the function of the hearing aid).
  • You need a professional check and clean: In order to be certain that your hearing aid is working properly, it should be cleaned once a year. You should also think about having your hearing tested regularly to be certain your hearing hasn’t changed at all.

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

I Changed 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 huge relief if you’ve been discouraged with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to maintaining any complex device such as hearing aids. So just keep in mind: if your hearing aid is sounding weak and your batteries have a full charge, it could be time to replace your earwax guard.