As far as functionality goes, that largely depends on what type of hearing aid you're using. For a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid, the earmold primarily serves as a bridge, conducting sound from the hearing aid to the inner ear. 

Some models of hearing aids that fit partially or entirely inside the ear will also use the earmold as a sort of 'anchor' to keep them in place. 

There are two different types of earmolds, differentiated from one another by material type. Hard earmolds are made of a specialized curable plastic. Soft earmolds, meanwhile, are made of skin-safe silicone. 

An earmold must be custom-made in order to ensure the proper shape and fit. Although this is typically a painless, simple process, it nevertheless requires the intervention of a professional audiologist. In addition to causing discomfort, an improperly sized earmold or an earmold fitted with the incorrect tubing can impede the functionality of a hearing aid. 

In extreme cases, this may even cause damage to the ear canal. 

How Is an Earmold Made?

Once you've decided to purchase a hearing aid, the first and most crucial step involves fitting. This requires making an impression of your ears. Basically, they pour a specialized liquid into the ears, wait for it to harden, then use the resulting material to create your earmold. 

Your audiologist will first use an otoscope to examine your ear canal. This simple tool is essentially a handheld flashlight/microscope — it allows a healthcare provider to take a close look at what's going on inside a patient's ear.

Next, if there's any earwax or debris within the ear, the audiologist will clear it out, typically using a specialized vacuum, an irrigation syringe, or both. Once they've determined that the canal is cleared of all debris, they'll insert something called an otoblock into the ear canal. This small piece of foam is basically just a plug — it prevents the casting material from entering the inner ear, which could create a blockage or damage the eardrum. 

With the otoblock inside the ear canal, the audiologist will then inject the impression material using a tipped syringe. Once the material is hardened, the resulting impression is then removed and examined for any irregularities. Provided none are found, the audiologist then sends the impression or impressions to either a laboratory or a hearing aid manufacturer.

Each earmold consists of several components:

  • The shaped portion that rests inside the ear.
  • A small hole in the shaped portion. This is known as the sound outlet. 
  • A length of specialized tubing that connects the earmold to the hearing aid.
  • Optionally, a vent to improve sound quality. 

How to Insert an Earmold

  1. Turn off your hearing aid. 
  2. Align the large curved portion of the earmold with the back of your head. 
  3. Place the earmold into the ear at a slight angle.
  4. Straighten the earmold, and make sure it fits snugly. You may need to wiggle it slightly.

How to Care For Your Earmolds

You'll want to check your earmold occasionally to ensure that it remains clean. First, with your hearing aid turned off, hold the earmold in your hand and examine it for any signs of damage or debris. Your audiologist should have provided you with cleaning tools to help with basic maintenance. 

This should be done nightly. 

Every week or every other week, it's also advisable to deep clean your earmolds. To do this, gently disconnect your earmold from your hearing aid, and store the hearing aid in a safe place, such as a dry box. Fill a container with warm water and mild soap, place the earmold inside, and allow it to soak for a half hour at most. 

Once it's done soaking, check it carefully for any remaining debris. Allow it to dry overnight with the sound outlet facing upwards. If you have an extra dry box, you could optionally place the earmold inside. 

Make sure there are no remaining water droplets before you reassemble your hearing aids the next morning. Beyond that, make sure to schedule regular exams with your audiologist. The tubing within your earmold needs to be replaced approximately every six to nine months, and though this can be done at home, it's not recommended.