Different Styles for Different Needs
The search for the best way to technologically deliver sound directly to the inner ear of a person who suffers hearing loss is always being advanced. Hearing devices have become increasingly smaller and more effective at delivering sound. One feature that affects the design of hearing aids, their fit and the perception of sound is hearing aid domes.In a behind-the-ear (BTE) model of hearing aids, sound is delivered into the ear canal using a custom-made earmold, foam tip or silicone dome. The earmolds of hearing aids can cause sound to be occluded or impeded, also called the occlusion effect. The purpose of the hearing aid dome is to overcome that occlusion to provide hearing aid users with better sound quality than ever before.
The Occlusion Effect
The occlusion effect is the uncomfortable experience of hollow or booming-like sounds from a hearing aid wearer’s own voice. The occlusion effect sounds and feels similar to listening to yourself talk while you’ve got your fingers stuck in your ears. The occlusion effect can be quite distracting, especially for those suffering lower level hearing loss.
What Are Hearing Aid Domes?
A hearing aid dome is the small, bell-shaped piece of rubber attached to the end of the hearing aid’s receiver wire, which is the physical piece of the aid that you insert into your ear. Hearing aid styles that most often come with domes are called receiver-in-canal (RIC) or receiver-in-the-ear (RITE), meaning the receiver part of the hearing aid rests inside the ear canal.
Proper fit of a hearing aid dome is crucial to quality of sound and comfort of wear. They come in different sizes and shapes and custom molds are also available. There are two main types of hearing aid domes: open and closed.
Open Style Dome
With an open-style dome, multiple openings are placed along the body of the hearing aid dome to let sound pass through the outside of the receiver. The openings help prevent the occlusion effect, which can be frustrating and sometimes experienced with closed style domes.
Open domes can sound more natural to certain wearers because they are still able to receive some unblocked or unoccluded sound through the ear. This style of hearing aid dome works best for those that have mild to moderately severe hearing loss.
Closed Style Dome
A closed style dome is one whole piece of rubber that surrounds the receiver and is inserted into the ear canal. Because closed domes are one solid piece, they are able to reduce unwanted or unneeded sounds from outside the hearing aids and boost the hearing aids’ sound level instead. They can also boost low frequency sound pressure in the ear canal.
The better boost in sound comes with the side effect of causing the occlusion effect in the wearer, unlike in open style domes. Closed style hearing aid domes are most often recommended for those with moderate to severe hearing loss, although anyone wanting to increase their success at hearing speech in noise, will benefit from a closed type dome.
Finding the Right Fit
With either open or closed style domes, the right fit is extremely important. Custom hearing aid molds can also help. Improper fitting domes negatively affect the ability to hear and may even be painful. Feedback can also occur (a high-pitched sound, like a whistle) with improper fit.
Should You use a Dome? Potential Pros and Cons
- Both styles boosts sounds and frequency range without acoustic feedback.
- Domes are easy to clean. They only need to be wiped down with a soft cloth.
- Domes are relatively inexpensive to replace.
- Though inexpensive, domes need to be replaced regularly (every 2 to 3 months), because they are prone to damage from ear wax and moisture.
- If you have dexterity or fine motor skill issues, domes can be difficult to handle due to their small size. This may be more of an issue when trying to clean them.
- Domes can become stuck in your ear if you yank too hard on the hearing aid tube. The dome can disconnect from the aid and lodge in your ear, which may require an audiologist to remove.
At Sonora Hearing Care, we are here to help with all your hearing needs, from finding the right hearing aids and accessories to determining which devices are best for your type of hearing loss that fits your lifestyle and budget. If you need help assessing your hearing needs or purchasing custom earmolds, please contact our audiologists today.