Ear moulds, also known as earmolds, are components individually fitted to your ears that form the connection between the ear and the hearing system. They are critical to both the comfort of your hearing aid and the acoustic quality of your hearing. Purposefully, they do not serve exclusively to conduct sound, but can also be used as a means of hearing protection.
Hearing aids with earmold
For in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aids, the use of an earmold is necessary to ensure a fit to the individually shaped ear canal in which the ITE sits. However, earmolds can also be helpful for behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids in certain cases. These include, in particular, severe to profound hearing loss and the presence of low-frequency hearing loss.
How is an earmold made?
Since each ear is highly individually shaped, an impression of the ear canal and concha must first be taken. Based on this, the earmold is custom-made so that it fits optimally in the respective ear. Different materials with different degrees of hardness are selected for the fabrication. During the subsequent fitting, the fit is particularly important, because if the earmold is not tight enough, feedback can occur. If, on the other hand, it is too tight, the occurrence of pain cannot be ruled out. In order to refine the acoustic transmission, optional equalization or treble holes can also be made. In general, the better the fit, the better the hearing quality!
Earpiece or dome?
BTE hearing aids are partially inserted into the ear. Either earpieces or earmolds can be attached to the inner part. The following differences should be considered as selection criteria for the two forms:
- individually customized
- small openings for air passage
- better result for low-frequency hearing loss or impairment of the entire frequency spectrum
- tight fit avoids feedback
- Standard sizes
- Large openings with good ventilation
- natural sound
- mostly sufficient for high-frequency hearing loss
- lower fitting effort
Whether domes or earmolds are fitted to a hearing aid is therefore primarily determined by the type and degree of hearing loss. Severe to profound hearing loss requires the choice of earmolds, while for less severe limitations in the high-frequency range, domes are usually sufficient for intervention. Here, the reduced fitting effort of the domes is both an advantage and a disadvantage: time is saved, but only standard sizes that best fit the nature of the ear can be selected. Consequently, there is no guarantee that the standardized sizes will fit optimally in the ear canal.
Clean the earpieces
Daily cleaning of earmolds is essential due to the close-to-the-body way they are worn. Sebaceous secretions and earwax can otherwise clog the openings of the earmold. In order not to forget the cleaning process, it is therefore recommended to integrate it as a fixed part of the evening routine. Always proceed thoroughly, but at the same time carefully, to protect the sensitive devices.
Cleaning of the earmolds should be performed using soft, dry cloths or special cleaning wipes. Other cleaning agents should not be used, as most of them are too aggressive for the hearing aids. In the case of BTE hearing aids, additional cleaning steps will often be necessary, for example if they have a sound tube. In any case, complete drying of the hearing aids in a suitable dry box must be considered afterwards to prevent moisture damage. For a detailed description of how cleaning and drying is guaranteed to succeed, click here.
Ear fittings: Common problems
Wearing earmolds can significantly improve hearing, but - like anywhere - there are potential problems that can potentially occur:
- Feedback: Feedback occurs when the already amplified sound exits the hearing aid at any point due to improper fit of the earmold and is subsequently perceived again by the wearer. The unpleasant whistling sound occurs when earmolds are not an accurate fit.
- Occlusion effect: Accuracy of fit is associated with a certain amount of filling of the ear. This tightness, in turn, can block sound and lead to particularly loud or muffled perceptions of one's own voice.
- Accumulation of earwax: Accumulations of earwax (cerumen) behind the earmold worsen sound perception if necessary.
- Allergic reaction: The materials used in the fabrication pose a risk of allergic reaction. In the event of an occurrence, anti-allergenic materials can be used.
- Ear piece presses: Changes in the ear, for example, due to changes in weight, require an adjustment of the earmold. For help, the hearing care professional can be consulted.
- . Discoloration: Discoloration cannot be ruled out due to contact with sebum and earwax. If discoloration is too severe, the earmolds should be replaced.
Many of the above problems can be corrected by the hearing care professional by making small changes to the earmold or modifying the hearing aid settings. If the occlusion effect occurs, the drilling of so-called "vents", small holes in the earmold that favor the passage of sound, is helpful. Feedback or pressing earmolds occur due to incorrect fit in the ear. Despite being made to measure, earmolds may also need to be adjusted, for example, if there are changes in the outer ear. Accordingly, a checkup should be performed regularly to prevent or correct problems.
Ear moulds for children
Ear molds are used for hearing care in children when the type or degree of hearing loss requires it. Likewise, earmolds have proven effective for particularly active children because they are less sensitive than hearing aids with an open fitting. This allows children to play actively without worry. However, children's growth necessitates regular re-fitting of the earpieces to ensure an optimal fit.
Special applications of earpieces
Depending on their manufacture, earmolds can also find application outside of traditional use. For example, they can be used as hearing protection for people in noisy workplaces or when making music. For this purpose, the earmold blocks loud sounds but remains permeable for speech perception. Read more about hearing protection in the workplace here. In addition, with the right design, a real piece of jewelry can be conjured from the components. To use earmolds as jewelry, an individual look is created with colors, glitter and rhinestones.
Ear Fits: Pricing and Cost Coverage
Earmolds are included in the price of hearing aids. Since the statutory health insurance companies usually cover the cost of this proportionally or completely, consequently, the cost coverage of earmolds depends on the hearing aid associated in each case.