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 is missing. When you troubleshoot the problem with a basic Google search, the most plausible answer seems to be a low battery. Which frustrates you because you charge the batteries each night.

Nevertheless, here you are, struggling to listen as your group of friends have a discussion around you. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact situation. You may want to check out one more possibility before you get too aggravated 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 wear an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for optimal efficiency, other designs have been designed to be placed directly in the ear canal. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is situated.

A Guard Against Earwax

Now, earwax does lots of great things for the health of your ears (numerous studies have shown that earwax ,in fact, has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can help prevent numerous infections). So earwax isn’t a bad thing.

But hearing aids and earwax don’t always get along quite as well–the moisture in earwax, especially, can hinder the normal function of hearing aids. The good news is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well aware of it.

So modern hearing aids have shields, called wax guards, designed to prevent earwax from impacting the normal function of your device. And those wax guards might be what’s causing the “weak” sound.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

A wax guard is a small piece of technology that is integrated into your hearing aid. Wax can’t pass through but sound can. Wax guards are important for your hearing aid to continue working correctly. But issues can be created by the wax guard itself in certain cases:

  • 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 as well. If earwax is clogging your device, it’s feasible, while you’re changing the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the inside of the hearing aid (and this would obviously hamper the efficiency of your hearing aids).
  • A professional clean and check is required: At least once every year you need to get your hearing aid professionally checked and cleaned to be certain it’s working correctly. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also have your hearing tested on a regular basis.
  • Cleaning your earwax guard needs to be done once every 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 needs to be cleaned. 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.
  • When you purchased your new wax guards, you got the wrong 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.
  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for some time: Like any other filter, sooner or later the wax guard will no longer be able to effectively perform its job. There’s only so much cleaning you can do to a wax guard! You might need to get a new wax guard when cleaning doesn’t (you can buy a special toolkit to make this process smoother).

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

I Changed my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

You should notice substantially improved sound quality after you change your wax guard. You’ll be able to hear (and follow) conversations again. And if you’ve been coping with inferior sound quality from your hearing aids, this can be a real relief.

Just like any specialized device, hearing aids do require some regular upkeep, and there’s undoubtedly a learning curve involved. So just remember: if your hearing aid is sounding weak and your batteries are fully charged, it might be time to change your earwax guard.