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 bit muffled and distant. It seems like some of the sound isn’t there. When you troubleshoot the problem with a simple 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, fighting to listen as your group of friends carry on a conversation around you. You got hearing aids to avoid this exact situation. Before you get too aggravated with your hearing aids, there’s one more cause for this diminished sound you might want to check out: your own earwax.

A Home in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids reside under normal circumstances. Your ear canal is at least contacted even by an over the ear design. Other versions are manufactured to be positioned inside the ear canal for best efficiency. No matter where your hearing aid is situated, it will encounter an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

Earwax Guards

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

But hearing aids and earwax don’t always work together quite as well–the normal functionality of your hearing aid can be hindered by earwax, especially the moisture. The good thing is, that earwax is predictable and manufacturers are well mindful of it.

So modern hearing aids have shields, referred to as wax guards, designed to keep earwax from impacting the general performance of your device. And those wax guards might be what’s creating the “weak” sound.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

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

  • Cleaning your earwax guard should be done once every month: it’s been too long since you last cleaned them. Much like any filter, a wax guard can eventually become clogged with the exact thing it’s been tasked with filtering out. Every every so often, you’ll need to clean the guard or the wax caught up in it will start to block sound waves and damage your hearing.
  • You have a dirty hearing aid shell: When you’re changing your earwax guard, it’s important that your hearing aid shell be properly cleaned also. If earwax is covering your hearing aid, it’s feasible, while you’re changing the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the inside of the hearing aid (and this would clearly hinder the efficiency of your hearing aids).
  • You haven’t changed your wax guard for a while: As with any other filter, eventually, the wax guard will no longer be able to adequately perform its task. There’s only so much cleaning that can be done to a wax guard! You may have to get a new wax guard if cleaning doesn’t (you can purchase a special toolkit to make this process easier).
  • It’s time for a professional check and clean: In order to be sure that your hearing aid is working properly, it needs to be cleaned once every year. And in order to be certain that your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to get your hearing tested on a regular basis.
  • When you bought your new wax guards, you got the wrong model: Most hearing aid providers have their own unique wax guard design. If you get the wrong model for your particular hearing aid, your device’s functions could be impaired, and that may lead to the hearing aid sounding “weak.”

If you purchase a new hearing aid guard, it will most likely come with instructions, so it’s a good idea to follow those instructions the best you can.

I Replaced my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

You should observe much improved sound quality after you switch your wax guard. Hearing and following conversation should become much better. And that can be a huge relief if you’ve been disappointed with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

Similar to any specialized device, hearing aids do call for some routine upkeep, and there’s undoubtedly a learning curve involved. So just keep in mind: if your hearing aid is sounding weak and your batteries have a full charge, it may be time to change your earwax guard.