Unfortunately, hearing aids and ear wax build-up can go hand in hand. In a healthy ear, ear wax is naturally carried out of the ear by the conveyor belt motion of the superficial skin layer and jaw movement. When it reaches the outer part of the ear, it falls out or can simply be wiped away.
Hearing aids block this natural pathway. Wearing hearing aids can lead to a number of problems with respect to ear wax, including:
- Damage to the hearing aid itself as a result of wax contamination
- Issues with feedback (a whistling noise emitting from the hearing aid when in the ear) when the ear is blocked with wax
- The production more earwax (the hearing aid insert sits where the wax glands lay in the ear canal, stimulating more production of wax)
- A reduction in hearing caused by a wax blockage
- An improperly fitting hearing aid due to excessive wax
Wax traps/guards and hearing aid domes may also become dislodged in the ear canal, worsening hearing and causing wax to build up around them.
Damage to the hearing aids happens as a result of the acidity of earwax, which if allowed to enter the hearing aid, can cause damage to the electronics. It has been estimated that between 60-70 per cent of devices returned to manufactures for repair have been damaged by ear wax contamination.
The instructions that come with your hearing aids will cover how to clean your hearing aids and protect them from wax damage. They need to be allowed to dry overnight and then cleaned every morning using a special brush to remove any wax and built-up debris. You also need to replace the wax trap at least every three months.
The Effect of Hearing Aids On Ear Wax
The presence of any foreign object in the ear stimulates extra wax production by the cerumen glands. The ear is engaged in a process of self-cleaning in response to the presence of the aid. But, because it is blocking airflow, the wax doesn’t dry out as it usually would so it won’t fall to the outer section of the ear.
How to Clear Wax
If you have hearing aids, you need to know how to clear wax from your ears. You should never try and do this yourself. Using cotton buds, fingers and anything else to dig and remove wax from the air is dangerous and only pushes the impaction further into the ear. Home remedies, like candles, are also dangerous.
It’s always best to leave the ear alone and let your ear go about its usual self-cleaning process. However if you wear hearing aids and wax builds up behind them, you need to know where to seek help.
The Micro-Suction Technique
One of the safest ways to clear impacted ear wax is to visit a professional service, such as Earworx, for wax removal under direct observation. Our registered nurses use a bright light combined with magnification to see into your ear canals, from the entrance all the way down to your eardrum, and remove wax safely using a tiny vacuum cleaner and small instruments.
The procedure, called micro-suction and curettage, uses small instruments and suction to remove wax from the ear without the need to touch your canal wall or eardrum. This gentle process is quick and effective and will have your hearing aids back to pre-wax, optimum functioning levels.
- Your registered nurse will ask you questions about your ear and health history, as well as any symptoms you have noticed
- A speculum will be placed into your ear, and your nurse will use loupes to check the level of build-up. If wax removal is clinically indicated*, wax removal will be recommended
- The procedure will be explained, an opportunity to ask questions provided and the wax blockage will be quickly and gently removed.
- Education will be provided on how to prevent wax build-up into the future, and how often attendance may be required for manual removal of wax
So, How Will It Improve Hearing Aid Function?
Impacted ear wax is one of the leading causes of hearing loss. Your ears work by taking the sound from the outside world so they can be processed by the ear and interpreted by the brain as sound. If there is a build-up of ear wax, the sounds coming in are muffled or even completely silenced this process can’t take place.
Your hearing aid amplifies the sounds of the outside world, so a blockage in the ear by wax will affect its performance, as will a blockage within the hearing aid itself as a result of wax build-up in the ear canal. Many patients report an instant improvement in their hearing – with and without the hearing aid.
How else can Earworx help?
Earworx registered nurses can also remove dislodged wax guards and wax traps, and remove dislodged hearing aid domes – often on the same day.
If you have hearing aids and are prone to wax build up, you should be making regular appointments with Earworx. Enjoy clear ears and let your hearing aids do their job!
*wax removal is clinically indicated where symptoms of wax build up are being experienced, wax is preventing needed assessment of the ear or both.