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 muffled and distant. It’s like some of the sound is lacking. When you research the situation, a battery issue appears to be the probable reason. And that’s frustrating because you’re quite careful about placing your hearing aid on the charging platform before you go to bed every night.

Even so, here you are, struggling to hear your bunch of friends carry on a conversation near you. You bought hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. You may want to check out one more possibility before you become too annoyed about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Residence in Your Ears

Your hearing aids reside in your ear, usually. Even when you use an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. Other versions are manufactured to be placed inside the ear canal for optimal performance. No matter where your hearing aid is situated, it will encounter an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

A Shield Against Earwax

Now, earwax does a lot of important things for the health of your ears (many studies have shown that earwax actually has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can help prevent numerous infections). So earwax can actually be a positive thing.

But the relationship between hearing aids and earwax is not always so good–the normal operation of your hearing aid can be hampered by earwax, peculiarly the moisture. Fortunately, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

So modern hearing aids have safeguards, known as wax guards, created to keep earwax from impacting the normal function of your device. And the “weak” sound may be caused by these wax guards.

Wax Guard Etiquette

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

  • You need a professional clean and check: At least once per year you need to have your hearing aid professionally checked and cleaned to make sure it’s working correctly. You should also consider having your hearing tested on a regular basis to be certain your hearing hasn’t changed at all.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been replaced: Wax guards need replacing 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 doesn’t (so that you can make this easier, you can buy a toolkit made specially for this).
  • Cleaning your earwax guard should be done once every month: it’s been too long since you’ve cleaned them. As with any filter, a wax guard can eventually become clogged with the exact thing it’s been tasked with eliminating. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is plugging up the wax guard and every once in a while, you will want to clean it.
  • You’ve replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Most hearing aid providers have their own unique wax guard design. Sound that is “weak” can be the result if you get 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 has to be cleaned when you change your wax guard. If earwax is covering your device, it’s possible some of that wax may make its way into the interior of the device while you’re changing the guard (and, naturally, this would impede the function of the hearing aid).

Make sure you use the included instruction for best results with your new wax guard.

After I Change my Earwax Guard

You should notice much better sound quality once you switch your wax guard. You’ll be able to hear (and follow along with) conversations again. And that can be a big relief if you’ve been disappointed with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s certainly a learning curve when it comes to maintaining any specialized device like hearing aids. So just remember: It’s likely time to change your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is weak even when the battery is fully charged.