Earmolds are a component of behind the ear hearing aids. They are custom made to fit your ear exactly. Some fit in the bowl of your ear (the concha) and some fit in the canal.

Why fit matters

Ears come in all shapes and sizes. Just take a look at any group of 10 people and you will see no set of ears are the same. Even your right and left ear can be shaped differently. That’s why behind-the-ear hearing aids require an earmold that is made to fit each person’s ear exactly.

If an earmold doesn’t fit properly, sound escapes the ear canal. The escaped sound is detected, picked up by the microphone, amplified and returned to the canal where it escapes again. With each iteration, the volume increases until you have a screeching or whining sound referred to as feedback. Feedback is a sign that your earmold doesn’t fit properly or isn’t inserted properly.

Types of earmolds

Full shell earmolds fill the entire concha of the ear. They are used for moderate to severe hearing loss because they provide maximum sound retention. Originally, these earmolds were made in “flesh” colored tones to make them less conspicuous. Today, they are made in a variety of colors to satisfy a wide range of tastes and styles.

Half-shell earmolds look like a full shell that has been cut in half on a horizontal plane. It is less visible than a full shell earmold but has many of the same benefits.

A skeleton earmold or semi-skeleton earmold is like the full shell, but a hole is cut out to make a ring around the bowl of the ear. The semi-skeleton earmold is easier to insert for people with dexterity issues.

Canal earmolds fit inside the ear canal and are made to be inconspicuous. They are made from an impression of the ear canal. These earmolds only work well for people with a fairly long ear canal. They are vented and tubed in the same manner as a full shell earmold.

How earmolds are made

When the audiologist orders your hearing aids, they will make an impression of either your ear canal or the concha. It doesn’t hurt and just takes a few minutes.

First, the audiologist will use an otoscope to check for wax. Then the audiologist will use a small pen-shaped object called an earlight to place a small piece of cotton into the ear canal. This ensures the ear canal is completely blocked so that the impression material doesn’t go too far into the ear canal or touch the eardrum. To make the impression, the audiologist will mix together two soft materials that make a firm rubbery material. They then put the soft material into a large syringe and carefully inject the material into the ear. It may feel cool or sticky when it goes in. It will stay in your ear for about 3 to 5 minutes. Once it is firm, it will be removed.

If the hearing aids are for a child, earmolds will need to be replaced as the child grows.