Hearing Health Blog

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

Your hearing aids aren’t sounding right even though you recently changed the batteries. Everything sounds distant, muffled, and not right. It’s like some of the sound is missing. When you try to diagnose the problem with a basic Google search, the most likely answer seems to be a low battery. And that’s frustrating because you’re very diligent about placing your hearing aid on the charging station before you go to bed every night.

But here you are with a group of friends and you can’t really hear their discussion. You bought hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. Before you get too upset with your hearing aids, there’s one more cause for this weak sound you might want to check out: your own earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Reside in Your Ears

Your hearing aids live in your ear, in most cases. Even when you wear an over-the-ear model, 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 be close to an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does lots 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 numerous studies). So earwax can actually be a good thing.

But earwax and hearing aids don’t always get along quite as well–the moisture in earwax, especially, can hinder the normal operation of hearing aids. The good news is, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid makers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So a protective feature, called wax guards, have been integrated so that the effective function of your device isn’t impeded by earwax. And the “weak” sound might be caused by these wax guards.

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a small piece of technology inside your hearing aid known as a wax guard. Wax can’t pass through but sound can. So that your hearing aid can continue to work efficiently, a wax guard is crucial. But there are some circumstances where the wax guard itself could cause some issues:

  • 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 possible, while you’re swapping out the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the interior of the hearing aid (and, obviously, this would hinder the function of the hearing aid).
  • A professional clean and check is required: At least once a year you should have your hearing aid professionally checked and cleaned to be sure it’s working correctly. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you should also get your hearing tested routinely.
  • When you bought your new wax guards, you got the wrong model: Most hearing aid manufacturers have their own specialized wax guard design. If you buy the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions might be impaired, and that may result in the hearing aid sounding “weak.”
  • Cleaning your earwax guard needs to be done once a month: it’s been too long since you last cleaned them. As with any filter, a wax guard can eventually become clogged with the exact thing it’s been tasked with filtering out. Every now and then, you’ll have to clean the guard or the wax caught up in it will start to block sound waves and damage your hearing.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been changed: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. There’s only so much cleaning that can be done to a wax guard! You may need to get a new wax guard when cleaning doesn’t (you can purchase a special toolkit to make this process smoother).

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

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

You should observe much better sound quality once you change 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 aggravated with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

Just like any specialized device, hearing aids do call for some regular upkeep, and there is undoubtedly a learning curve involved. So don’t forget: if your hearing aid sounds weak and your batteries have a full charge, it could be time to replace your earwax guard.

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