McDonald Hearing Services - Grand Rapids, MI

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

Your hearing aids don’t sound the way they should even though you just changed the batteries. Things just don’t sound right, like they’re a little dull and far away. It’s like some of the sound is lacking. When you troubleshoot the issue with a basic Google search, the most probable answer seems like a low battery. Which frustrates you because you keep the batteries charged every night.

But here you are with some friends and you can’t really hear their discussion. This is exactly the situation you got hearing aids to prevent. Before you get too angry with your hearing aids, there’s one more reason for this diminished sound you might want to check out: your own earwax.

You’re Hearing Aids Live in Your Ears

Your ears are where your hearing aids reside under normal circumstances. Even when you wear an over-the-ear model, there’s at least contact with your ear canal. And for best efficiency, other versions have been created to be positioned directly in the ear canal. No matter where your hearing aid is positioned, it will encounter an ever-present neighbor: earwax.

Earwax Guards

Now, earwax does lots of great things for the health of your ears ((various infection can actually be prevented because of the antibacterial and anti-fungal qualities of earwax, according to many studies). So earwax isn’t a bad thing.

But the relationship between earwax and hearing aids is not always helpful–the standard operation of your hearing aid can be hindered by earwax, peculiarly the moisture. On the plus side, this isn’t exactly a surprise to hearing aid manufacturers and earwax doesn’t often move in unpredictable ways.

So a protective feature, called wax guards, have been integrated so that the normal function of your device isn’t hampered by earwax. And the “weak” sound may be brought about by these wax guards.

Things to Know About Wax Guards

A wax guard is a tiny piece of technology that is incorporated into your hearing aid. The idea is that the wax guard enables sound to go through, but not wax. Wax guards are important for your hearing aid to keep working properly. But problems can be created by the wax guard itself in some circumstances:

  • It’s been too long since the wax guard was cleaned: Cleaning your wax guard needs to be a monthly (or so) maintenance routine. A wax guard blocks the wax but sometimes it gets clogged and as with any kind of filter, it has to be cleaned. Every every so often, you’ll have to clean the guard or the wax stuck in it will begin to block sound waves and mess up your hearing.
  • 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 (so that you can make this smoother, you can get a toolkit made specifically for this).
  • You have a dirty hearing aid shell: And let’s remember your hearing aid shell, which also needs to be cleaned when you change your wax guard. If earwax is clogging your hearing aid, it’s possible, while you’re swapping out the wax guard, some of the earwax gets into the inside of the hearing aid (and, naturally, this would hinder the function of the hearing aid).
  • 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 result if you purchase the wrong wax guard for your model.
  • A professional check and clean is needed: In order to be certain that your hearing aid is functioning properly, it needs to be cleaned once a year. And in order to make sure your hearing hasn’t changed at all, you also need to get your hearing tested routinely.

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

I Changed my Wax Guard, What’s Next?

Once you’ve changed over your earwax guard, your hearing aids should begin producing clearer sounds. You’ll be able to hear (and follow along with) conversations again. And that’s a real relief if you’ve been discouraged with your (fully charged) hearing aid.

There’s certainly a learning curve with regards to maintaining any complex device like hearing aids. So don’t forget: It’s likely time to replace your wax guard if the sound quality of your hearing aid is weak even when the battery is fully charged.