Hearing Professionals of Illinois

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What are Earmolds?

Custom Earmold

Earmolds are used for two main reasons. First as part of a hearing aid and second as a device to protect your hearing. Earmolds are also used as communication devices. If you are having an earmold made it is because an audiologist thinks it will help you. Here’s why.

Earmolds and hearing aids

Behind-the-ear hearing aids have a component that fits snugly behind the ear and another piece that fits in the bowl of your ear. The two parts are hooked together by a small piece of tubing.

The portion that fits behind the ear is encased in a plastic case. It contains the microphone to pick up the sounds around you, the processor to amplify and enrich the sound (and filter out unwanted sound), the batteries that power the device as well as volume control and an on/off switch.

The portion that fits in your ear is the earmold. It is custom-made for a perfect fit in your ear. It channels the sound from the other portion of the hearing aid directly into your ear canal. The earmold has vents to allow air in to prevent a stuffy feeling and to keep your own voice from sound odd to you.

When an earmold is perfectly fitted, no sound escapes and there is no feedback or whining. If you wear an earmold and experience feedback or whining, make sure your ears and the earmold are clean and the earmold is inserted properly.

Earmolds for hearing protection

If your job or your hobby exposes you to loud noise, an earmold can protect your hearing. The earmold fits snugly in your ear and protects the ear canal from the loud noise. An earmold can be a musician’s best friend. Hunters and other gun enthusiasts wear earmolds to protect hearing against firearm sounds. You’ve probably noticed that broadcasters wear earmolds. It allows them to hear sound from off-camera personnel without distraction from background noise. The communication is delivered directly into the wearer’s ear canal and cannot be picked up by microphones.

Making earmolds

To obtain a perfect seal, earmolds are made from an impression of your ear. The audiologist will inspect your ear first to make sure it is clean and no skin or earwax is present that would prevent a good impression. The audiologist then inserts an oto block made from cotton or soft foam. This small piece of material is attached by a string for easy removal and keeps any of the molding material from reaching deep into your ear canal or damaging your tympanic membrane (eardrum).

Next, two liquids are mixed together to create the molding material. The molding material is injected into your ear and sits for three to five minutes while it hardens. This doesn’t hurt. Once the material has solidified, the audiologist removes the impression. The impression is sent off to a facility that will turn it into an earmold. The earmold may be made from acrylic, silicone or soft vinyl.