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

You just changed the batteries, but your hearing aids just don’t sound right. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little muffled and distant. It’s like some of the sound is lacking. When you troubleshoot the issue with a basic Google search, the most probable solution seems like a low battery. Which annoys you because you charge the batteries each night.

And yet, here you are, struggling to listen as your bunch of friends carry on a discussion near you. This is precisely the situation you got hearing aids to prevent. You might want to check one more possibility before you become too aggravated about your hearing aids: earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Live in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, usually. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear design. Other versions are manufactured to be placed inside the ear canal for ideal results. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor no matter where your hearing aid is situated.

A Guard Against Earwax

Now, earwax does some important things for the health of your ears (numerous studies have demonstrated that earwax ,in fact, has anti-fungal and antibacterial qualities that can help stave off various infections). So earwax can actually be a good thing.

But the relationship between earwax and hearing aids isn’t always helpful–the normal functionality of your hearing aid can be impeded by earwax, especially the moisture. The good news is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

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

Wax Guard Etiquette

A wax guard is a little piece of technology that is bundled into your hearing aid. The concept is that the wax guard lets sound to pass through, but not wax. Wax guards are a must for your hearing aid to keep working properly. But there are some circumstances where the wax guard itself might cause some problems:

  • You have an unclean hearing aid shell: And let’s remember 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 changing the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the interior of the hearing aid (and this would clearly hamper the efficiency of your hearing aids).
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard needs to be a monthly (or so) upkeep routine. As with any filter, a wax guard can ultimately become clogged with the exact thing it’s been tasked with filtering out. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is clogging up the wax guard and every now and then, you will want to clean it.
  • You haven’t replaced your wax guard for some time: As with any other filter, eventually, the wax guard will no longer be able to properly perform its job. A wax guard can only be cleaned so many times. You may need to get a new wax guard when cleaning doesn’t (you can purchase a specialized toolkit to make this process smoother).
  • It’s time for a professional check and clean: At least once per year you should have your hearing aid professionally checked and cleaned to make sure it’s working properly. And in order to be certain that your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to get your hearing tested regularly.
  • You have replaced your wax guard with the incorrect model: Most hearing aid manufacturers have their own specialized wax guard design. Sound that is “weak” can be the outcome if you get the wrong wax guard for your model.

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

I Changed my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

You should notice much improved sound quality after you change your wax guard. Hearing and following discussions should be much easier. And if you’ve been dealing with inferior sound quality from your hearing aids, this can be a real relief.

As with any complex device, hearing aids do call for some regular maintenance, and there is certainly a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: if your hearing aid sounds weak and your batteries are fully charged, it could be time to change your earwax guard.