Etymotic Custom Buds II: The ear-canal moulding experience

Posted on by Mike Evans

Before the holidays I mentioned in my Etymotic hf3 review that I'd been kicked out by the audiologist because of excess wax. Disappointment: I couldn't get the moulds made so that Etymotic's specialists could craft ear buds precisely tailored to my ear canals. So the story continues.

While in Athens over Christmas I visited a local ENT consultant to have my canals vacuumed by a vicious little machine, probably made by Dyson. The result was crystal clear sound, so I had no qualms when I paid my return visit to the Harley Street Hearing Centre in London this morning. It turned out to be an deafeningly interesting experience.

First the audiologist tied a length of fine thread to a blob of cotton wool which he then pushed unfeasibly deep into the canal.  I now realise why you need to get rid of the wax. Then followed a large ball of soft blue plasticine material that completely fills the canal and the surroudings outside. With these bungs in both ears I could hear almost nothing - a rather disturbing sensation - and this bodes well for the noise-suppressing qualities of the buds when they're ready.

Custom BudsThe solidified moulds are now on their way to the ear-bud manufactory and I'm told I should get my buds in a couple of weeks. I can't wait to try them out with the hf3 headphones and to see whether all the tech-blog reviews are accurate. I have great hopes for this custom-bud setup on long flights, so they'd better be worth the hassle and expense.

Clearly making these moulds needs to be done by experts. If you are in the London area I would strongly recommend the Harley Street Hearing Centre. Since Etymotic charge a fixed price*, you might as well go for the best. 


* Until I get the bill I am not sure how much is charged for the combined mould and bud preparation. Etymotic quote $100 for the US market and I've seen various UK prices between £70 and £90. I will give the correct prices in my final review when the buds arrive. 

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