Every patient’s ears are unique.
Custom-made earplugs involve creating an exact replica of the patient’s ear. The process starts by first checking the ear canal for any earwax buildup. If any is detected it must be removed before the mold can be taken. A foam dam is inserted into the ear canal to prevent the impression material from coming in contact with the eardrum. The impression material is inserted into the ear with a syringe. Once the ear is filled, the material is pressed to ensure there are no air pockets in the mold. Once hardened, the patient can take the bite block out of their mouth and the mold is removed from the ear.
An earmold can then be created from the mold out of acrylic, vinyl or silicone. Acrylic earmolds are made of the hardest material, are resistant to breakage and are the easiest to repair. They lack flexibility, making them difficult to place into small ears. Vinyl earmold are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and are softer than acrylic but firmer than silicone. This type of material is able to produce a better fit but may shrink and harden over time. Silicone produces the softest and most flexible earmold. While difficult to insert into the ear, they produce the tightest seal and are extremely durable.
Earplugs are also available for specific purposes.
Swimmer’s earplugs are designed to keep water from entering the ear canal. Water often contains bacteria, which can lead to an ear infection called swimmer’s ear. These earplugs are waterproof and buoyant; if they fall out of the ear while swimming they can be easily retrieved.
Hunter’s earplugs are able to block out the dangerously loud sounds, such as the shot of a gun, from entering the ear. They are also designed to let safe sounds in, enabling the hunter to remain aware of their surroundings.
Musician’s earplugs can be used by those attending a concert or playing in a band. These earplugs are designed to reduce sound levels evenly. This ensures the integrity of the music stays intact; music and speech sound clear but the dangerously loud sounds are prevented from entering the ear.