What you need to know about earmoulds
To use a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid, your child will need to have a custom earmould made for that ear.
An earmould is a custom-made piece of soft or hard plastic that fits your child’s ear exactly. It's an important part of the hearing aid because it holds the tubing in the right place, so it goes straight down the ear canal and not into the side. It also keeps the amplified sound in the ear and stops it from leaking out of the ear.
How long do earmoulds last?
Your child’s earmoulds need to fit well and comfortably. Growing children will need new earmoulds regularly, depending on their age and hearing loss.
Infants (under 12 months) – every four to six weeks
Babies and toddlers (12 months to around two years) – every three to four months
Older children – once or twice a year.
How are earmoulds customised?
Your audiologist will take an impression (cast) of your child’s ear using soft putty. First, they'll make sure the ear is clear by looking in the outer ear and ear canal with a special light. Then they'll place a small foam block, which stops the putty going too deep, inside the ear canal. A syringe of putty is carefully squeezed into the ear and after a few minutes the putty becomes firm and rubbery. The impression is removed and sent to the earmould manufacturer. The procedure is not at all painful, but the putty can feel cold!
What’s that whistling sound from the hearing aid?
Feedback or whistling happens when sound coming out of the hearing aid is picked up by the hearing aid microphone and amplified again. If feedback occurs while the hearing aid is being worn, it means sound is leaking out of the hearing aid system somewhere – most commonly from around the earmould. It's more likely with high-powered hearing aids or for young babies, because they grow so quickly their moulds become loose.
What can be done to stop feedback?
To stop feedback, we need to stop the leakage of sound. Check the earmould is seated properly in your child’s ear by putting your finger on the earmould and gently wiggling it into the the ear a little more. This may stop the whistling – at least temporarily.
If it continues, contact your hearing centre for an impression appointment so you can a new earmould.
In the meantime, use a lubricant such as Auragel to ‘fill in’ the spaces between the mould and the ear. You can get Auragel from your Hearing Australia centre or some chemists. Alternatively, a light smear of Vaseline or K-Y Jelly on the mould can help, but check with your doctor first before using gels if your child has ear infections or skin problems.
Can I get new moulds quickly in an emergency?
Absolutely. We can get fast-track urgent ear moulds at many of our centres meaning we can get a new one to you in around a week.
Is ear wax the problem?
Excessive wax in the ear can cause feedback by reflecting sound out of the ear. Your audiologist can check if there is any build-up. An audiologist can't remove wax from your child’s ear and won't take an impression if there is a blockage of wax. If there's a large wax build-up, your child will need to see their GP/ENT/practice nurse to get it removed.
Cleaning out the wax might solve the feedback problem, or your child may still need a new impression for a new earmould.
My baby’s aids feedback when he’s feeding
Some babies will get whistling from the hearing aid only when it is up against a parent’s chest while feeding. This can also happen if the baby lies with one side of the head against a pillow. You can turn the hearing aid off on that side in this circumstance, but remember to turn it back on!
What can be done if the feedback keeps happening?
If your child is still getting feedback, even with new earmoulds, your audiologist can ask the ear mould laboratory to further refine your child’s ear moulds. Sometimes it’s a process of experimentation to arrive at a suitable solution, but be assured your audiologist and the laboratory specialists will work with you to find a solution.
What about uncomfortable ear moulds?
People who wear powerful hearing aids need firmly fitting ear moulds, which may occasionally result in sore ears. The laboratory dip's ear mould in wax to smooth out irregularities. Your audiologist can ask for extra wax on parts of the earmould where sound commonly leaks out and causes feedback, but it may occasionally cause pressure points and sore spots. If your child’s earmould hurts, make an appointment to see your audiologist. Some trimming of the earmould may be all that’s required, or perhaps special instructions need to be given to the earmould laboratory.
Do all earmoulds use the same material?
Earmoulds are made from a range of materials that vary in softness and non-allergenic properties. Your child might do better with a particular material, so your audiologist may try more than one until they find the right solution. If your child is having any problems with their earmould, ask your audiologist about alternatives.