No two sets of ears are the same. In fact, two ears on the same head won’t even be identical. That’s why it’s so important for individuals with hearing loss to get customized earmolds for hearing aids. When properly fitted to the contours of the wearer’s ear, molds will stay in place and provide optimal performance. The trick is deciding which type of design will work best for your ear shape and hearing condition.
Earmolds for Hearing Aids
Certain styles of hearing aids require earmolds to provide comfort and to ensure a prime performance. Some are hard and solid, like those made from acrylic, while others are soft and spongy, like those made from silicone. They fit into either the ear canal or concha, which is the outer structure that surrounds the canal. Suffice it to say, earmolds play a vital role in the overall effectiveness of behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing instruments.
Doctors will consider a patient’s ear anatomy, type of hearing loss, and potential allergic reactions before recommending earmolds for hearing aids. Of course, you will also be able to consider cosmetic and personal preferences when making the decision.
Styles of Earmolds
If you suffer from hearing loss, you will be pleased to learn that there are a wide variety of earmold styles on the market today. While this can make the selection process a bit daunting, it also increases the likelihood that you will find an earmold you love. The following list includes a variety of common earmolds for hearing aids:
Also known as an open BTE design, this type of earmold is a dome-shaped insert that is placed inside the ear canal. A thin, flexible tube carries the audio transmission from the aid to the mold.
Like the dome-style devices, canal earmolds are placed directly inside the ear. The design, which is somewhat long and small, is nearly invisible in appearance.
These molds offer an enhanced performance by filling the entire bowl of the ear and extending into the canal. While more visible, full-shell designs are often more comfortable and provide a better fit. They help with high-level noise exposure.
Half-shell designs provide a cosmetic compromise between visibility and performance. By covering only the bottom half of the concha’s bowl, these earmolds are often ideal for those with mild to moderate hearing loss. They help with mid-level noise exposure.
A skeleton mold essentially looks like a full-shell design with the center removed. They are held in place by a back ring and a rim of material that secures a tight fit within the bowl. This mold’s effective seal makes it ideal for those with mild to severe hearing loss.
This type of mold is like the skeleton only without the back ring. The semi-skeleton design provides a more comfortable fit for some and is often suggested for wearers who have limited dexterity.
Common Issues (and Solutions)
Before customizing the shape of an earmold design, the doctor will make a cast of the patient’s ear. The idea is to get the mold tight enough to prevent sound leakage or feedback from the receiver. However, the device shouldn’t hug so close that it causes pain.
In some cases, the doctor may need to make some adjustments after customizing the earmold to the impression. For example, your own voice may sound muffled once you put the functioning mold into your ear canal. Such problems can be rectified with mold alterations or hearing aid circuit tweaks. On the other hand, you may feel that your voice sounds too loud while wearing the aid. This can be addressed by increasing the size of the earmold vent, although a vent that is too large may cause feedback from the aid.
Finally, you may struggle to balance hearing protection with verbal communication. In this case, you may benefit from an earmold with a filtered attentuater. These earmolds are available in electronic and non-electronic models, and they are quite popular amongst musicians.
Finding the Right Earmolds for Hearing Aids
If you experience hearing loss, you’re in good company. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly 29 million adults in the U.S. could benefit from a hearing aid (source). Unfortunately, many adults avoid getting BTE devices due to worries about comfort or cosmetic issues.
Modern technological advances have made earmold discomfort a thing of the past for many people with hearing loss. A trusted healthcare professional can help you select the right design and customize it to fit your needs.
Speaking of which, if you’ve been experiencing hearing loss and you live near Limon or Pueblo, Colorado, contact Apex Audiology. Our hearing specialists can help you further explore earmolds for hearing aids, ensuring that you find the right solution for your unique situation. To get started, please call us at 719-569-5000 or schedule an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!