That’s a very good question and I’m glad you brought it up. In-ear monitors are custom fit to your ears and your ears only. They are not off-the-shelf products so before we can build them for you, we need to know your precise measurements.
We need to know the interior dimensions of your ear and your ear canal. The only way for us to get this information is for you to visit a trained specialist, an audiologist. Audiologists are ear doctors that specialize in monitoring your hearing health but they are also trained to take ear impressions. An ear impression is essentially a cast of your ear and since audiologists prescribe and fit their customers for hearing aids, they have the tools and know-how for being able to take accurate impressions.
Anyways, the process goes something like this. You set up an appointment with your local audiologist and upon visiting them, they first look into your ears to make sure that you have no obstacles. This is a nice way of saying that they make sure that you don’t have excessive earwax build up. If you do, don’t worry. Wax happens. And the doctor can help you with that too.
If all looks good, the audiologist will gently place a cotton damn just past the second bend of your ear canal. This safety precaution protects your eardrum and it serves as a backstop for the ear impression material. Once the damns are in place for both ears, the audiologist will ask you to open your mouth and they should provide you with a bite-block for comfort. This simple tool just helps you keep your mouth open in a comfortable position.
If they don’t give you one, just bite on your thumb. That will help keep your jaw in the ideal position. Why do we insist on keeping your mouth open during the impression process? Well, it’s not just to make you look silly. Actually, opening your mouth changes the aperture of your ear canals. Try this. Go ahead and stick your finger in your ear and open and close your mouth. You feel how your ear changes? Keeping your mouth open during the process gives you a more natural fitting and more comfortable in-ear monitor.
Once your mouth is open and you’ve got strings hanging out of your ears, the audiologist mixes up a 2-part epoxy into a specially designed syringe. The mixture is semi-viscous and it looks and feels like Silly Puddy. When you are ready, they inject it into your ear. It goes right up to the cotton damn and then it starts to spill out of your ear canal. It’s all a bit strange feeling but it doesn’t hurt or even feel funny; it’s just different. The doctor then pats everything down and covers the outside of your ear as well.
It takes about 6 minutes for everything to harden. They’ll then twist the molds out and give them to you so you can mail them to us.
Your impressions are perfect casts of all parts of your ear and we use this mold to ensure that your monitor is as comfortable as possible. Part of the goal of in-ear monitors is to block -26 db of ambient noise and in order to do this, they must fit snugly. If they are loose, sound bleeds through the gaps. This is what we call a compromised seal. A loose seal also compromises sound quality. In order to have a full and deep low-end, you must have a great seal. So the impression process not only is about fit and comfort, but it is directly correlated to how good your monitors will sound.
The better your monitors fit, the better they feel and the better they sound. This is why we ask you to visit an audiologist. And this is why we are adamant when we say that this is the most important part of the entire process. It all comes down to the impressions.
We wish that there was an easier way for us to get you your monitors but we’ve learned over time, that you just can’t cut corners. A little extra time devoted to finding the right audiologist upfront saves you so much time and hassles in the future. A great impression leads to a great monitor. Hands down!
This is why it is imperative that you feel 100% comfortable with your audiologist. All audiologists are capable of taking great impressions but here’s the rub. Impressions for in-ear monitors are different than impressions for hearing aids. Hearing aids are much smaller than in-ear monitors and as such, their impression process doesn’t require capturing as much information. So it is up to you to explain to the audiologist that you need impressions for FULL SHELLED piece with a CIC CANAL.
Let them know ahead of time that your impressions need to detail the full helix, crus of the helix, tragus and antitragus and that they must go just past the second bend of the ear canal.
Don’t worry. You don’t need to know what any of this means. They will. Just let them know ahead of time when you are booking your appointment. If they sound iffy about any of it or if they give you any resistance, call someone else. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with them.
For an extra measure of mental security, email them this post and print out the attached form to remind them of everything that you talked about when you set up the appointment.
And if you are still unsure of what to do, give Ultimate Ears a call and we can make some recommendations.