People who wear hearing aids are familiar with earmolds and their function. However, it’s not that common a word among those of us unfamiliar with or just learning about hearing aids. An earmold, in most cases, is what holds the hearing aid in place. It’s usually custom-made and specifically shaped for one wearer. While earmolds are most commonly used in hearing aids, professionals such as TV newscasters, pilots, racecar drivers and law enforcement agents also employ earmolds in their jobs.
What are earmolds?
A Hearing aid earmold is generally made of plastic and sits either in the ear canal or in the outer part of the ear and the ear canal. It’s often described as a small piece of plastic, like a plug. But the size and shape of an earmold varies, just as the size and shape of ears are different from person to person.
Very tiny earmolds fit inside the ear canal and are designed to be virtually unseen. Larger earmolds fit inside the outer ear in what is called the concha bowl, which surrounds your ear canal. They too are designed for comfort and to be inconspicuous.
Styles of earmolds
Just as there are different types of hearing aids, there are various styles of earmolds. In addition to the ones mentioned above that fit inside the ear canal, there are full-shell and half-shell earmolds and skeleton and semi-skeleton earmolds, and dome-style molds.
Full-shell earmolds provide a good seal to allow for the best hearing. They generally cover the entire concha bowl and are used for mild to moderate hearing loss. Half-shell earmolds are similar but only cover the lower half of the concha bowl. These are used when the hearing aid wearer has mild hearing loss.
Skelton earmolds are designed for cosmetic appearance and comfort. These are used for mild to severe hearing loss and sit in the concha bowl, but have a hollow center. Semi-skeleton earmolds are similar but have no back ring. People with limited dexterity may find these easiest to use. These also serve those with mild-to-severe hearing loss.
Dome-style earmolds are soft and work with behind-the-ear hearing aids. These earmolds work inside the ear canal in tandem with the hearing aid, which sits behind the ear. This style works for all types of hearing loss.
How do earmolds work?
In hearing aids, earmolds are designed to seal the ear canal from outside noise and channel sound to your units. But when used to protect hearing, earmolds seal out harmful noise at high decibel levels.
Hard earmolds are made of lucite and acrylic and soft earmolds are made from silicone and vinyl. Hard earmolds are used for hearing aids and communication devices while soft earmolds are used as occupational ear protection as well as some hearing aids.
The earmold is an important part of a hearing aid and should be very comfortable, fit well and look good. Any problems should be discussed with your audiologist.