Because the shape of everybody’s ears is different, custom earplugs made from molds of your ears offer the best hearing protection, in addition to superior comfort and a secure fit. Off-the-shelf earplugs can’t compare with custom earmolds designed to fit the unique contours of your ears.
How Are Custom Earmolds Designed?
Earmolds are soft materials that are worn in the ear canal or outer bowl (concha) of the ear. They are usually made of plastic or acrylic, and are incorporated into the design of most hearing aids. Custom earmolds made from silicone impressions of your ear canals and outer ears are created in an outside laboratory, and can be used to make a variety of custom devices for many occupations. They are frequently used to make stethoscopes for medical professionals, headphones for pilots, earpieces for newscasters and custom earplugs used by musicians, hunters, law enforcement officials and swimmers.
Types of Custom Earmolds
The different types of custom earmolds are:
- Dome earmolds. Designed for Behind-The-Ear hearing aids.
- Canal earmolds. For use with In-The-Canal hearing devices.
- Full-shell earmolds. These are large enough to fill the entire ear canal, helping to prevent feedback from occurring. Most beneficial for those with moderate to severe hearing loss.
- Half-shell earmolds. Similar to a full-shell earmolds but containing a bottom half only, so it fits in the concha of the ear. For individuals with mild hearing loss.
- Skeleton earmolds. This style also fills up a majority of the ear like the full-shell earmold, but contains a hollow center for improved comfort. It is held in place inside the concha with a strip of material, providing a tight but comfortable seal. Especially useful for those with mild to severe hearing loss.
- Semi-skeleton earmolds. A skeleton earmold without the back ring. Individuals with manual dexterity problems can more easily use this type.
Swimmers and those who participate in frequent water activities are at risk for developing a painful, itchy ear infection known as swimmer’s ear (otitis externa). These infections can also lead to a thickening of the bone and narrowed ear canals, a condition known as surfer’s ear (exostosis). Left untreated, both can eventually cause hearing loss. Keeping the ears dry is key to preventing problematic ear infections. The best way to accomplish this is by wearing specially designed swimmer’s plugs made of waterproof silicone that blocks the opening of the ear canal, preventing water from entering. Swimmer’s plugs are great for swimmers, surfers, rafters and snorkelers, and can be used to keep the ears dry when showering or bathing, as well.
Musicians are especially susceptible to hearing loss because of their constant exposure to music that often exceeds safe decibel levels. To protect their hearing, they need earplugs that limit the amount of damaging noise, but still allow them to hear music that is clear and natural sounding. That’s where musician’s plugs come in. Regular earplugs cause distortion and muffled speech by reducing higher frequency sounds. High-fidelity musician’s plugs reduce all sounds evenly while maintaining quality, so that music and speech is as close to the original as possible – just quieter. They include a number of interchangeable attenuators, filters that offer varying levels of sound protection depending on the type of instrument used and the venue played.
Hunters, law enforcement officials and gun enthusiasts are at risk for hearing loss every time they squeeze their triggers. A single gunshot can cause permanent, irreversible hearing loss. The typical decibel rating is 140 dB – louder than a jet engine (120 dB). Specially designed hunter’s earplugs utilize acoustic filters that amplify ambient noise, allowing the user to hear his or her surroundings better; when the weapon is fired, these filters soften the sound to protect hearing. They include a valve that closes automatically when struck by a sound wave, limiting the volume that reaches the ear. Hunter’s plugs are available in both electric and standard models.
Custom Earbuds for iPods
Earbuds are ubiquitous nowadays, but the ones that come standard with the iPod don’t always stay in place well, particularly when the user is engaged in physical activity. Despite their “one size fits all” claim, in reality they tend to fall out of your ears easily. Custom earbuds designed for iPods solve this problem by fitting the unique contours of your ear canals. They are made from a custom earmold created from impressions of your ears, and offer a tight seal and perfect fit. Their custom design ensures they remain in place even during moderate to vigorous activity, and the snug fit translates to better sound quality and less distracting external noise.