Ear Mold Impressions
Now that T’s ears are ear wax free, T was ready to get new ear mold impressions made!
T wears behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids (common in children, because they’re so durable) As shown in the picture below, the ear mold is a clear piece that fits snugly in the ear. There is a tube that connects the ear mold to the processor (which sits behind the ear), and a clear protrusion from the ear mold that goes into the ear canal. Sound is routed from a loudspeaker on the processor through the tube connecting the processor to the ear mold, and the sound then goes through the ear mold protrustion into the ear canal. The case of the processor also has a microphone, which receives sounds, processes the sounds, and determines how to amplify the sound (based on the person’s audiogram).
The ear molds are supposed to fit super snugly within the ear – and the fit is really important! Properly fitting ear molds are more comfortable, and they also produce less feedback. In T’s case, snugly fitting ear molds stay in his ear much better, too. In order to get the proper, snug fit, ear mold impressions are made of each ear to make a cast of the exact shape and size of the ear
Deciding when to get new ear mold impressions seems like a bit of an art! (In our case, T’s amazing audiologist usually just tells us when to schedule the appointment!) There’s a few ways to tell that a child has outgrown their ear molds. First, the ear molds can visually look too small – there can be gapping between the ear mold and the skin of the ear. Another way to tell is if the ear mold is inserted in the child’s ear but you hear feedback – this occurs because the protrusion of the ear mold isn’t totally isolated from the microphone on the processor (because the ear mold is too small and the protrusion isn’t fitting snugly into the ear canal), causing feedback between the microphone and the ear mold speaker. However, we tend to get new ear molds for T every 6-8 weeks or so, even if his current set of ear molds aren’t obviously too small. This is because it takes 2 weeks for the new ear molds to arrive after an ear mold impression is made, and if we waited to do the ear mold impressions until a current pair was obviously too small, they’d REALLY be too small once the new set arrived! But, since babies tend to grow in spurts, I think it’s always a bit of a guessing game to get the timing right!
So, T got new ear mold impressions made this afternoon! The audiologist first stuck a little ball with a thread attached in his ear so that the ball was where his ear canal is. She then filled around the ball and thread with a pink paste that hardens – the ball/thread kept the pink paste from going too deep into the ear canal. Once the pink paste set, the audiologist took the cast out, and it was ready to be sent out to make an ear mold exactly the shape and size of T’s ear. T had both ears done, and although he was a bit impatient with needing to hold still, we were done in about 15 minutes! His new ear molds should arrive in about 2 weeks.
Speech Therapy Session
After getting his ear mold impressions made, T had a speech therapy session. We started by playing with a pop-up farm animal toy – there were 4 animals (a cow, a pig, a horse, and a chicken) that were “hidden” in a box with a lid. Each had a corresponding knob, and when the knob was turned, the animal would pop out. We first contrasted the words “open” and “close” by saying “OOOOPEN!” while turning the knob and “CLOOOSE” when shutting the lid and saying “bye-bye!” to the animal, emphasizing the “o” sounds in “open” and “close.”
When T tired of that game, we opened a book of animals and asked T to point to different animals (“where’s the horse?”) – T isn’t yet able to identify animals and point to them, but we’re working on it! I often don’t think to ask T to show me where items are or to give me objects, just because I don’t think he’s capable of this task yet. But, today was a good reminder that I can still ask him these things, and he’ll learn in the process – there’s no need to wait to start asking him until I’m sure he can do it!