Occasionally ear impressions are required for patients. Today I want to describe what you should expect if you need them. But first, what are they and why might you need ear impressions?
An ear impression is like a picture or a 3-D image of your ear. The image is used to make custom shaped products that fit your ear canal like a hand in glove. Custom ear plugs, custom headphones, and custom components of hearing aids are all reasons you might need impressions.
With hearing aids, custom tips sometimes allow us to give better sound, better fit, reduce itching, and make insertion easier.
So, let’s say we’ve decided you want or need a custom product.
What next? The first thing to consider is safety. We need to have a look in your ear with our magnifier to make sure your ear canal is free of injury, foreign objects, disease, etc.
If that’s the case, which most often it is, then we will need to gently insert a little device called an otoblock deep into your ear canal. This is a little piece of foam on a string is designed to prevent the liquid impression material from going too deep. We don’t want it to touch your eardrum.
Once the otoblock is safely and properly set, then we mix up the impression material, which is a medical grade silicone, and gently fill your ear up. This feels wet and you feel all plugged up for about five minutes. Once the impression has set up, then we gently remove the it. We then send it off to the manufacturer, who either uses it to build the custom product or they take a three-dimensional picture of it and let their computers build the final product.
When the new piece arrives back in our office, we make sure it fits you well. Sometimes, we have to do more modifications to get it to fit comfortably.
In some sense, everything we do in our hearing clinic is custom, as in custom tuning of hearing aids, custom counselling, custom choosing of hearing aid brand, etc. But for some people, having that custom shaped product makes the experience that much more comfortable.
Now you have a sense of what to expect should you need ear impressions sometime.