On first glance, it may seem like earmolds — the plastic shell that wraps around the ear, usually worn by individuals with behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids — are all made of plastic. While plastic is a common material, perhaps the most common used, to cast earmolds, many other materials are used as well, for different purposes.

Consider earmold materials

  • Acrylic: Acrylic is typically considered the standby material for earmolds. The hard material is legacy, with a long of enough history for hearing healthcare professionals to acknowledge that the majority of BTE hearing aid wearers have earmolds made of acrylic. After all, acrylic is typically considered the most durable earmold material. According to Audiology Online, the material doesn’t shrink, break down or over time or harden with time. Additionally, it is the easiest to modify, retube or fix. Patients find that acrylic earmolds are easy to insert and remove; the material also lends itself to easier, cleaning.
  • Vinyl: Vinyl, also known as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), is softer than acrylic. These types of earmolds are well suited for individuals with soft ears, such as older individuals or children. A vinyl earmold inserts fairly easy and contains the advantage of providing a better acoustic seal. The tube stays easily in place without the aid of glue. A disadvantage of vinyl is that many hearing healthcare professionals find the material more difficult to modify. Vinyl can harden over time, becoming as hard as acrylic with age. It can also turn a yellow or brown color from one’s body or constant exposure to sunlight. As such, vinyl earmolds are typically replaced more often than acrylic earmolds.
  • Polyethylene: This is a third material used for earmolds. This material is semi-hard and waxy, much like a candle. Polyethylene is typically only used if a patient harbors allergies to acrylic or vinyl, as the material isn’t the most cosmetically appealing (its color is a milky white) and is difficult to modify.
  • Silicone:  Another top choice material for earmolds is silicone. The material is flexible and comfortable while providing a tight fit for instruments. Furthermore, it is durable, especially compared to acrylic, which can snap and break. However, silicone earmolds are typically harder when it comes to inserting the tube and create issues when a hearing healthcare professional needs to modify it.

When it is time to cast your ear for your earmold, your hearing healthcare professional will go over the types of materials available and will likely recommend the best material for your lifestyle, degree of hearing loss and ear type.