Cerumen (also known as earwax) is a naturally occurring substance produced by healthy ears to trap debris and keep insects from entering the ear canal. For people who wear hearing aids, cerumen is also the most common cause of hearing aid malfunction. Cerumen can clog the receiver (or ''speaker'') of the hearing aid, and block the amplified sound from being transmitted into the ear. When this happens the hearing aid may either sound weak or transmit no sound at all. In some cases, your Hearing Care Professional can remove the wax and return the aid to proper functioning. In other cases, the wax may penetrate the receiver and damage it, requiring that the aid be returned to the manufacturer for service. Because the electronic components in hearing aids are miniature, even a small amount of cerumen can cause a malfunction. Smaller custom instruments, such as Completely-in-the-Canal models, are more susceptible to damage from earwax. This occurs because they use smaller receivers and sit deeper in the ear canal, where they have more of a chance of scooping up wax during their insertion or accumulating it during normal usage.
It is possible that your aid could clog several times in a year and a half depending on the model of your aid, and the amount and location of wax in your ear. However, the good news is that there are things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of factory service for wax damage to your hearing aid in the future:
Clean your hearing aid each time you take it out. Ask your Hearing Care Professional to instruct you on proper cleaning of your hearing aid.
Keep your ears free of excessive wax. Ask your doctor if regular ear cleanings or over the counter products may help if you have excessive wax build up in your ears. Do not use cotton swabs to clean inside your ear as they often push earwax further into the ear and can damage your ear canal or eardrum. Remember the saying ''Do not put anything smaller than your elbow in your ears'' and leave wax removal to medical professionals.
- 3.) Inquire about a wax guard for your hearing aid. Ask your Hearing Care Professional if your hearing aid has a wax guard, or if a wax guard would be appropriate for the make and model of your hearing aid. While no wax guard is 100% effective and most require frequent cleaning or changing, wax guards may help reduce wax-related hearing aid damage.