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Here’s how hearing aids with earmolds work

Custom earmolds made from an impression of the ear canal provide top-quality fit and comfort

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Jessica Hinson

Writtenm by

Dr. Jessica Hinson

Updated:

May 10, 2024

An audiologist casts a man's ear mold. An audiologist casts a man's ear mold.

 

Earmolds provide hearing aid users with a custom fit designed specifically for their ears, but they aren’t necessarily the right choice for everyone.

Read on to see if being fitted for an earmold could be beneficial for you.

What are hearing aid earmolds?

Hearing aid earmolds are personalized fittings designed to enhance your device’s comfort, fit, and effectiveness. These earmolds are custom-made to each individual’s ear shape and size using acrylic or silicone and fit snugly inside the ear. Earmolds are created after your audiologist takes a physical impression or a digital scan of the ear and ear canal. Manufacturers use these impressions to create your one-of-a-kind earmold that attaches to the hearing aid receiver.

Earmolds are designed to minimize feedback or whistling noises that may occur with improperly fitted hearing aids. They often improve sound quality, reduce background noise, and enhance speech clarity. Overall, earmolds help maximize the functionality and comfort of hearing aids for individuals with hearing loss.

Earmolds can be designed in different sizes, including:

  • Canal lock
  • Skeleton
  • Half shell
  • Full shell

Earmolds vs rubber ear domes

Rubber domes are often used in receiver-in-canal (RIC) and earmolds in behind-the-ear (BTE) style hearing aids. Unlike earmolds, rubber domes do not provide a customized fit. They come in various shapes and sizes, including round, tulip, open, and double-shaped domes. Depending on the dome shape and size, they will let more outside sound and ventilation into the ear canal.

One major benefit of rubber domes is their quick availability. Domes can often be fitted by your audiologist on the same day as your hearing test, while earmolds must be custom-made and require a longer wait time.

Patients will have to wait a bit longer for their custom earmolds, requiring impressions that are sent off to the manufacturer. This usually takes a few weeks. Unlike rubber domes, earmolds fill the ear canal and trap amplification inside, leading to less outside sound coming in. Sometimes, moisture from sweat can become trapped in the ear canal since there is little ventilation in earmolds.

1. Rubber domes on Engage by Lucid Hearing

2. Earmold on Starkey RIC hearing aid

Benefits of hearing aids with earmolds

The most attractive thing for most patients with hearing loss regarding earmolds is that they are completely personalized to their ears. Because every ear canal is different earmolds are an excellent hearing loss treatment option. They provide comfort and enhanced sound quality which other styles often lack. A few other benefits of earmolds are:

  • Options for canal-sized, half-shell, or full-shell sizes
  • Customized and one-of-a-kind
  • Retention of the device in the ear canal
  • Personalization of color and designs
  • Custom venting
  • Powerful enough for severe hearing loss

Issues with earmolds & how to fix them

As with any feature of hearing aids, earmolds are neither perfect nor suitable for every person with hearing loss. These are some common problems users face with earmolds and some tips on how to combat them.

  • Moisture. Earmolds can trap moisture in the ear canal, which is why some users choose earmolds with custom ventilation. Small vents allow air to flow through the earmold. Additionally, earmolds should be cleaned daily with a soft cloth to prevent irritation due to moisture.
  • Feedback or whistling. This can occur when the earmold is not properly fitted. Feedback is often resolved with a visit to the audiologist who will check the fit and settings of the hearing aid.
  • Occlusion. The sensation of noise sounding hollow or having an ‘echo-like’ quality can occur when a patient has low-frequency hearing loss. This can usually be fixed with custom-vented earmolds which allow air and sound to move through the fitting.
  • Muffled voice. This sensation often points to some kind of blockage in the ear canal, such as wax buildup, moisture, or blocked ventilation. An easy solution is to keep the earmolds clean and free of debris, along with your ear canals. If this doesn’t solve the problem, visit your audiologist to troubleshoot the cause of the muffled voice.
  • Discomfort. While earmolds are designed with comfort in mind, a poorly fitted earmold can cause undue pressure on parts of the ear canal. Your audiologist is well-versed in hearing aid fittings of all styles and sizes and should be able to help.

Earmolds can also be used for hearing protection

Earmolds aren’t just used in hearing aids but in many other devices for a variety of needs.

Musicians and media professionals such as news anchors use in-ear monitors to receive information and block out unwanted noise. This is especially important for musicians who play live events. In-ear monitors with earmolds block out the sounds from the crowd, allowing them to hear the music from their band and their own voice.

Additionally, swimmers may use rubber earmolds to keep water out of their ears while swimming and float in water if they should pop out.

Frequently asked questions

Are hearing aids with earmolds better than domes? 

Earmolds can be a better choice for those who prioritize sound quality and fit in their hearing aid since they are completely personalized to each user’s ear.

How often should hearing aid molds be replaced? 

Earmolds usually need to be replaced before the hearing aid part of your device as they wear out more quickly. Users often feel the need to replace their earmolds every one to two years.

Are hearing aid molds covered by insurance? 

Depending on your insurance policy, earmolds may be covered if they are deemed medically necessary by your provider. Read the details of your policy to find out more.

Who can benefit from hearing aids with earmolds? 

Earmolds are a great choice for patients depending on their type of hearing loss. Patients with severe hearing loss that may struggle with background noise are often good candidates for earmolds.

Should I get custom earmolds or a hearing aid dome?

Rubber domes are easier and faster to get, but will not provide the same level of fit and allow outside noise and ventilation into the ear canal. Getting an earmold is a long process that involves taking ear impressions that are sent to a manufacturer. However, many people find the longer process worth the wait to receive custom earmolds that meet their hearing needs.