Your hearing aids aren’t sounding the way they should even though you just changed the batteries. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little bit muffled and far away. It’s like you aren’t hearing the full sound you’re supposed to be experiencing. When you try to diagnose the problem with a simple Google search, the most probable answer seems to be a low battery. And that’s aggravating because you’re really diligent about placing your hearing aid on the charging platform before you go to bed every night.
But here you are with some friends and you can’t quite hear their conversation. You bought hearing aids to avoid this exact circumstance. Before you get too angry with your hearing aids, there’s one more cause for this diminished sound you may want to check: your own earwax.
A Residence 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. And for optimal performance, other models have been created to be positioned directly in the ear canal. Regardless of where your hearing aid is positioned, it will encounter an ever-present neighbor: earwax.
A Shield Against Earwax
Now, earwax does some great things for the health of your ears (many studies have demonstrated that earwax ,in fact, has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties that can help prevent numerous infections). So earwax is not a bad thing.
But earwax and hearing aids don’t always get along quite as well–the normal functionality of your hearing aid can be hindered by earwax, particularly the moisture. Luckily, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid makers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.
So modern hearing aids have safeguards, referred to as wax guards, created to stop earwax from interfering with the general performance of your device. And the “weak” sound might be caused by these wax guards.
Wax Guard Etiquette
There is a little piece of technology in your hearing aid called a wax guard. Wax can’t pass through but sound can. Wax guards are essential for your hearing aid to continue working correctly. But there are some circumstances where the wax guard itself could cause some issues:
- When you got your new wax guards, you got the wrong one: Most hearing aid manufacturers have their own special wax guard design. Sound that is “weak” can be the outcome if you buy the wrong wax guard for your model.
- It’s been too long since the wax guard has been cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard should be a monthly (or so) upkeep routine. Much like any filter, a wax guard can ultimately become clogged with the very thing it’s been tasked with filtering out. Sound waves can be blocked if earwax is plugging up the wax guard and every once in a while, you will need to clean it.
- You haven’t replaced your wax guard for some time: Wax guards need replacing like any other filter. A wax guard can only be cleaned so much. When cleaning no longer does the trick, you may have to replace your wax guard (in order to make this easier, you can buy a toolkit made specially for this).
- Your hearing aid shell needs to be cleaned: When you’re switching your earwax guard, it’s important that your hearing aid shell be properly cleaned as well. If earwax is clogging your hearing aid, it’s feasible some of that wax may make its way into the inside of the device while you’re changing the guard (and this would clearly hamper the efficiency of your hearing aids).
- A professional clean and check is needed: At least once per year you should have your hearing aid professionally checked and cleaned to be certain it’s working correctly. And in order to be certain that your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to get your hearing tested routinely.
If you purchase 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.
I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?
Once you’ve changed over your earwax guard, your hearing aids should begin producing clearer sounds. Hearing and following discussions should become much easier. And that’s a real relief if you’ve been discouraged with your (fully charged) hearing aid.
There’s undoubtedly a learning curve when it comes to maintaining any specialized device such as hearing aids. So don’t forget: if your hearing aid sounds weak and your batteries are fully charged, it may be time to change your earwax guard.