Hearing Health Blog

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

You just exchanged the batteries, but your hearing aids still don’t sound right. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little bit dull and far away. It seems like some of the sound isn’t there. When you try to diagnose the issue with a simple Google search, the most likely solution seems like a low battery. Which annoys you because you charge the batteries every night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t really hear their discussion. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. You might want to check out one more possibility before you get too aggravated about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Residence in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids reside under typical circumstances. Even when you wear an over-the-ear model, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. Other versions are designed to be placed inside the ear canal for optimal efficiency. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor no matter where your hearing aid is situated.

A Shield Against Earwax

Now, earwax does some important things for the health of your ears (numerous studies have shown that earwax ,in fact, has anti-fungal and antibacterial qualities that can help ward off many infections). So earwax isn’t a negative thing.

But the interaction between hearing aids and earwax isn’t always so good–earwax moisture, particularly, can hinder the normal function of hearing aids. The good thing is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

So modern hearing aids have safeguards, called wax guards, created to prevent earwax from impacting the normal performance of your device. And those wax guards could be what’s causing the “weak” sound.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

There is a tiny piece of technology in your hearing aid called a wax guard. Wax can’t go through but sound can. In order for your hearing aid to keep working efficiently, a wax guard is crucial. But problems can be caused by the wax guard itself in some situations:

  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been replaced: Like any other filter, sooner or later the wax guard will no longer be able to properly perform its task. There’s only so much cleaning you can do to a wax guard! When cleaning no longer does the trick, you may have to change your wax guard (so that you can make this easier, you can buy a toolkit made specially for this).
  • You’ve replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Each model and maker has a different wax guard. Sound that is “weak” can be the outcome if you get the wrong wax guard for your model.
  • Your hearing aid shell needs to be cleaned: When you’re changing your earwax guard, it’s essential that your hearing aid shell be correctly cleaned also. If earwax is clogging your hearing aid, it’s feasible, while you’re changing the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the interior of the hearing aid (and, obviously, this would hamper the function of the hearing aid).
  • 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 ultimately become clogged with the very thing it’s been tasked with eliminating. Every now and then, you’ll have to clean the guard or the wax stuck in it will begin to block sound waves and damage your hearing.
  • You need a professional clean and check: In order to be sure that your hearing aid is working correctly, it needs to be cleaned once a year. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to get your hearing tested on a regular basis.

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

After I Switch Out my Earwax Guard

Once you’ve changed over your earwax guard, your hearing aids should start producing clearer sounds. Hearing and following discussions should be much better. And that’s a big relief if you’ve been frustrated with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s undoubtedly a learning curve in regards to maintaining any complex device like hearing aids. So just remember: if your hearing aid sounds weak and your batteries have a full charge, it might be time to replace your earwax guard.

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