Hearing Associates of Libertyville, IL

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

You just replaced the batteries, but your hearing aids just don’t sound right. Everything seems distant, muffled, and not right. It seems like some of the sound isn’t there. When you troubleshoot the problem with a simple Google search, the most probable answer seems to be a low battery. Which annoys you because you charge the batteries each night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t really hear their discussion. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact situation. You may want to check out one more possibility before you become too annoyed about your hearing aids: earwax.

A Home in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids reside under typical circumstances. Even when you use an over-the-ear design, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. Other models are designed to be positioned in the ear canal for ideal efficiency. Earwax will be an ever-present neighbor regardless of where your hearing aid is positioned.

A Guard Against Earwax

Now, earwax does a lot of great things for the health of your ears (many studies have revealed that earwax actually has anti-fungal and antibacterial qualities that can help ward off many infections). So earwax isn’t a bad thing.

But the interaction between hearing aids and earwax isn’t always so good–the moisture in earwax, in particular, can interfere with the normal operation of hearing aids. The good news is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well aware of it.

So a safety component, known as wax guards, have been put in place so that the normal function of your device isn’t impeded by earwax. And those wax guards may be what’s causing the “weak” sound.

Wax Guard Etiquette

There is a little piece of technology inside your hearing aid known as a wax guard. The idea is that the wax guard allows sound to pass through, but not wax. In order for your hearing aid to keep working effectively, a wax guard is crucial. But issues can be caused by the wax guard itself in some situations:

  • When you bought your new wax guards, you got the wrong model: Every model and maker has a different wax guard. Sound that is “weak” can be the outcome if you purchase the wrong wax guard for your model.
  • It’s been too long since the wax guard has been replaced: Wax guards wear out like any other filter. A wax guard can only be cleaned so much. You might need to get a new wax guard when cleaning doesn’t (you can purchase a specialized toolkit to make this process smoother).
  • Cleaning your earwax guard needs to be done once a month: it’s been too long since you last cleaned them. Much like any filter, a wax guard can ultimately become clogged with the very thing it’s been tasked with filtering out. Every once in a while, you’ll need to clean the guard or the wax stuck in it will begin to block sound waves and damage your hearing.
  • Your hearing aid shell needs to be cleaned: And let’s remember your hearing aid shell, which also needs to be cleaned when you change your wax guard. If earwax is covering your device, it’s possible, 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 function of your hearing aids).
  • It’s time for a professional check and clean: At least once a year you should get your hearing aid professionally checked and cleaned to be certain it’s functioning properly. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to have your hearing tested on a regular basis.

If you purchase a new hearing aid guard, it will probably come with instructions, so it’s a good idea to follow those instructions to the best of your ability.

After I Change my Earwax Guard

You should hear much better 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 weak sound quality from your hearing aids, this can be quite a relief.

Much like any specialized device, hearing aids do require some routine upkeep, and there is certainly a learning curve involved. So just keep in mind: It’s likely time to change your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is poor even with a fully charged battery.

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