No two ears are the same, so are mass-produced ‘built for all’ hearing aids really the best choice for our ears? Earmolds for hearing aids are an option you should definitely consider. Let’s go over the pros and cons!
What is a Molded Hearing Aid?
It comes as no surprise that a key part of your hearing aid fits inside your ear, but some people don’t realize that this fitting has two basic styles: dome or earmold.
If you’ve seen a hearing aid in a dome style, you’ll have noticed that it looks like a small cone. They come in a few standard sizes, so when you go for a hearing aid fitting you are simply given the size that fits best for your ear. Generally, they do have large openings which are beneficial for the wearer as this allows for ventilation and natural sound to enter the ear.
While dome styles are not customized to fit one person’s unique ear shape, earmolds for hearing aids do just this. Made of either silicone (a medical-grade elastomer) or plastic (and sometimes an acrylic called Lucite), these custom made fittings sit perfectly in your ear canal. This does not completely block off your ear canal, however, as they usually have tiny vents to let air through. This style of hearing aid can also be changed easily.
A hearing health profession will take an impression of your outer ear and ear canal. It’s not as simple as taking a straight mold, and must be done with care and expertise. Luckily, the process is painless and uses a soft molding compound — nothing too daunting!
The earmold style can come in a few different sizes too, although this will depend on your degree and type of hearing loss as well as the anatomy of your ear and your personal preferences. You can have an earmold that is canal size (small), half-shell size (medium), or full-shell size (large).
So, generally speaking, earmold hearing aids have a snugger fit than standard dome hearing aids, as they have been specially made to fit your ear.
What Are the Pros of Earmolds for Hearing Aids?
So a molded hearing aid means a good, snug fit — but what are the benefits of this?
Dome-style hearing aids are best for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. For those with more severe to profound hearing issues, earmolds are more suitable as they provide more amplification and excellent sound quality. They are also better for those with trouble hearing at low frequencies.
They also keep amplified sound from traveling back outside the canal and creating a feedback loop. If this does happen the amplified sound gets out and is reamplified, causing an unpleasant high-pitched whistling sound in your ear.
What Are the Cons of Earmolds for Hearing Aids?
Of course, hearing loss treatment should be determined on a case by case basis, and some people actually prefer the dome style hearing aid, reporting a greater level of comfort and less occlusion (the sensation or feeling that your own ear sounds muffled like you have ear congestion).
Your molded hearing aid might feel strange at first and take a while to get used to. However, people often find this to be the case with the first fitting of any hearing aid, so it’s not an issue specific to molded hearing aids.
As your ear shape can change slightly over time, the earmold will sometimes need a bit of re-adjusting. Your hearing aid earmold will need to be checked from time to time to ensure it still fits correctly.
When the ventilation is insufficient in the earmold, it can block the air in your ear canal completely. This can lead to high amounts of occlusion. Modifications to the ear mold can help this, as can hearing aid circuit changes.
You might also feel like your own voice sounds too loud — also a sign that your earmold has a vent that is too small, and requires a larger one.
On the other hand, an earmold vent that is too large or in the wrong place can lead to the whistling noise or acoustic feedback previously mentioned. If this happens your hearing health professional might need to install a canal lock to secure the earmold firmly in place.
It’s also important to acknowledge that your earmold can also cause a build-up of earwax. This is normally a bigger problem if you have an earmold that is particularly tight. Earwax build-up can damage your ear if it gets out of hand. It can also reduce sound transmission, making it difficult for you to hear and benefit from your hearing aid.
Finally, although this shouldn’t be an issue for the majority of users, you might be allergic to the material used to create your earmold and have an allergic reaction. Talk to your hearing health professional about your existing allergies, as a hypoallergenic material can be used when creating your hearing aid earmold.
Earmolds for Noise Exposure
Earmolds can be beneficial for non-hearing aid users for the same reason that they normally do a good job of preventing occlusion in hearing aids. If you use custom earmolds for sound protection, they should give you a greater level of protection. A snug fit means that sound has a harder time entering your ear.
You can even get ones with an acoustical chamber that blocks most noise while still allowing you to understand speech. These are often used by sportspeople, musicians, and others operating in a noisy work environment.
Alternative Hearing Aids Without Earmolds
While earmolds for hearing aids are a great option, they aren’t for everyone. We recommend doing some research on all the different types of hearing aids out there before making a purchase. RIC Hearing aids, for example, don’t use an earmold at all! There are many different styles and varieties out there; find one that fits your lifestyle and needs!
The information in this guide has been written using the following reliable sources: