Petite or Spock-like, protruding or tucked, flexible or rigid, our ears are as differently shaped and textured as the nose on our faces. Despite being the object of school yard ridicule and tell-tale indicators of embarrassment, they serve an important purpose – especially for those who wear behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids.
What are ear molds?
Ear molds are the plastic part of your BTE hearing instrument which connect the ear canal to the hearing aid and literally place the sound in your ear. Depending on the type and degree of hearing loss, and the anatomy of the ear, the ear mold can be canal size (tiny), half-shell size (medium) or even a ''full shell'' size (large). There are more than ten different, common styles of ear molds, which are available in a variety of colors and types of plastic depending upon your personal preference, the shape and texture of your ear, and your specific hearing instrument.
Non-hearing aid users may use ear molds, too. Custom ear molds are a great way to protect your hearing from loud sounds at work or at play. Musicians, stock car racers and even some professional football teams use ear molds with an acoustical chamber which blocks most noise while still allowing the wearer to understand speech. Some swimmers use specialized ear molds designed to keep water out of their ear canal.
The importance of a good fit
Much like eye glass frames must be fit to your face, ear molds must be fit to your ear. It’s important for them to be tight enough to prevent sound from leaking out and creating feedback but not so tight they cause pain. That’s why a hearing healthcare professional will make a cast of your ear, known as an ear impression, to make sure they get the right fit.
Even though ear molds are made from an actual impression of your own ear, they may need a bit of adjusting. Some of the common problems hearing aid users can experience include:
Your own voice sounds muffled. Because the ear canal is blocked while wearing hearing aids, users often complain their voices sound muffled, much like during a bad cold. This is known as the occlusion effect and can be managed with ear mold modifications or hearing aid circuit changes.
Your own voice sounds too loud. When a hearing aid user complains their own voice sounds too loud, the ear mold may need a larger vent.
Feedback: If the vent in the ear mold is too large or in the wrong place, sound can leak through the vent and cause feedback.
Whistling. sometimes the shape of your jaw can affect how the ear mold fits. If your ear mold has a tendency to move every time you talk or chew, your hearing aid may produce an annoying whistling sound. Your hearing healthcare professional can address this problem by attaching a small handle called a “canal lock” which will hold the ear mold more securely in place preventing feedback.
As you can see, the ear mold is an important part of your hearing instrument. You can do your part to make sure it provides the best possible sound environment by communicating with your hearing healthcare professional whenever you encounter problems or discomfort.
As always, Healthy Hearing is here to help you find a trusted hearing healthcare professional. Visit our online directory to find a hearing center and to read verified patient reviews on professionals in your community.