Taking a Perfect Impression

The ear is much like a person’s fingerprints in that every individual on the planet has their own unique pattern, and your ears are just as distinctive or unique as your fingerprints. Just like the human ear, custom-fit earpieces come in all sorts of different shapes, sizes and colors that are designed for an astonishing number of various purposes. There is however one thing that every single custom-fit earpiece ever created does have in common – the production process for each earpiece started with an impression of the ear.

It is truly impossible to overstate the importance of getting a good ear impression taken before ordering a custom earpiece, as without a good impression, the laboratory producing the earpiece will never have a complete picture to work with of all the landmarks and shapes within the ear that play a crucial role in creating a proper-fitting earpiece from the impression received. A good ear impression picks up every small, physical detail inside the human ear, and essentially works as the blueprint that shows earpiece manufacturers EXACTLY how each custom earpiece needs to specifically be produced for each individual customer.

Here at Westone, we receive an average of about 1,000 impressions from people all over the world every single day. While we have certainly seen an increase in the number of digital or scanned impressions sent-in to us in recent years, over 95% of the impressions received at Westone continue to be the classic, physical impression like the ones seen in the images throughout this post.

To ensure that a proper ear impression has been taken the moment it is removed from an individual’s ear, an accurate and thorough assessment of the finished impression should immediately be performed, even before the patient or customer gets out of the chair in which they just had their impression taken.

To help assist in the impression taking process, we have put together a simple five-point checklist that can be used to assess the quality of any ear impression. Each of these recommendations or “points” can be used every time an impression is taken, and hopefully will help to ensure that you are always instantly able to identify whether a proper ear impression has been taken or not before sending the impressions to your preferred earpiece manufacturer.

1. Make sure the Concha is round and full without any pockets or voids present

Concha Area Identified on Impression

Make sure that the concha bowl is fully represented with the finished impression; the majority of the retentive features of the finished earpiece are derived from this anatomical feature. The Concha or Concha Bowl is where most of the earpiece is likely to rest in the ear, so always make sure the Concha area of the impression is properly covered or filled-in with impression material.

2. The Canal Length of the impression goes to the Second Bend in the ear canal

Second Bend of the Ear Canal on an Impression

The more complete the canal portion of the ear is, the better we are able to utilize that information to create a better fit. This also however gives the lab a more accurate picture of an ear canal’s shape and direction, which assists lab technicians to ensure that earpieces producing audio or channeling outside noise into the earpieces funnel any incoming noise directly to the eardrum. 

3. The Helix is completed through to the tip

The Helix Area on an Impression

While there may be differing opinions about the effectiveness of a helix lock on a finished earpiece, the helix area does help to provide significant retentive benefit to a finished earpiece which helps ensure the earpiece stays locked in place once inserted, so this area should definitely not be overlooked when inspecting the impression.

4. Make sure that there are no “wormy”, voided or under-filled areas on the ear impression

              Example of a Wormy Impression                    Example of an Under-Filled and Voided Impression

If any area of the impression appears to have any gaps, voids or be “under-filled” with impression material, the impression should be discarded and a new impression should be taken to replace it, as a proper-fitting earpiece will never be able to be produced off any impressions with deficiencies such as the ones shown in the images directly above this text.

5. Make sure there are no “shiny spots” on the surface of the impression

There Should be no Shiny Areas on an Impression

Shiny spots on the surface of a cured ear impression typically indicate that the impression cured due to contact with air rather than curing or hardening properly on its own. An earpiece made from an impression with shiny surfaces will often result in an earpiece that is undersized.

If we receive a bad impression at Westone that is under-filled or has voids in any key areas, we will call you immediately to notify you that a new set of impressions will be required to complete the order. While we may have six decades of experience producing custom earpieces, without a proper foundation (impression) to base the earpiece off of, the custom earpiece will be useless and unable to fulfill its original intended purpose.

We hope that you have found this information to be helpful, and that you will keep these useful tips in mind the next time you are having an impression taken. With the help of the five-point checklist discussed above, our hope is that moving forward, you will now be able to always immediately identify whether or not a good ear impression has been taken the moment it is removed from the ear!

If you have any further questions about ear impressions or the ear impression taking process, feel free to reach out to our Customer Service team, or instead just send any questions directly to us via our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages!