Earwax is your ears’ built-in cleaner and lubricant, keeping bacteria and dirt from getting inside your ear canal. Ironically, too much wax can also obstruct your hearing and cause other problems. For instance, earwax one of the leading causes of hearing aid malfunction and repairs. Blockages from wax can make sounds seem weak, distorted or completely block sound altogether, problems that not only affect your hearing ability but also wear out the hearing aid’s components. Although you can certainly visit a hearing healthcare professional to have wax removed from your hearing aid (and your ears), there are simple ways to remove wax properly at home to save yourself trips to the clinic.

  1. Visually identify wax obstructions and remove them with a clean, soft cloth

Removing noticeable wax buildup could be enough to keep your hearing aid functioning well in between regular visits for a full-scale cleaning. Don’t use any kind of cleaning agent on your hearing aid. If the cloth can’t remove the wax and the problems persist, you may need to use other specific cleaning tools.

  1. Use the wax removal tools from a hearing aid cleaning kit

For smaller areas where wax is difficult to get to, invest in a cleaning kit if you don’t already have one. Basic cleaning kits cost seven dollars, while more deluxe sets cost as much as $45. The key tools for wax removal are brushes and picks. Even though these are designed for hearing aids, be gentle with them and try not to push wax further into your device.

  1. Clear or replace wax filters and guards

Some hearing aids have built-in wax guards to prevent wax from getting inside, but they’re designed to be replaced on a regular basis. Check yours for any obvious signs of debris you can remove easily, and if necessary, replace it with a spare you might have received from your hearing healthcare professional. Otherwise, visit the office for a replacement.

  1. Clean the sound bore or tip

This tiny part of your hearing aid is where sound enters, so it’s especially important to keep it clear of wax. The wax loop or brush from a cleaning kit are the best tools to gently scoop any wax away from the opening of the sound tip.

  1. Remove and clean any tubing

Behind the ear hearing aids come with tubes that can also become blocked with earwax. Remove it, check for any blockages, and remove them with either a small, bendable wire or an air blower. Tubing wears out and is designed to be replaced periodically, so if the blockages are severe, take it in to your hearing healthcare professional.

Following these simple cleaning tips carefully can help you avoid the dangers of earwax damage to your hearing aids and the inconvenience of having your hearing aid malfunction.