Is there any evidence that cerumen production is increased when using earmolds? Or, is it that earmolds block the ear from natural drainage so it just appears that there is more cerumen? Also, is there any difference between soft and hard shell earmolds regarding cerumen production?
There is evidence that cerumen production can be increased by certain factors.
The following is taken from the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology Volume 8, Number 6, December 199, p.392: ''The physiologic factors that control the sebaceous glands in the ear canal are not fully known. However, the function of the modified apocrine (ceruminous) sweat glands has been well established. Perry (1957) studied cerumen production by direct visualization of the skin of the distal portion of the external auditory canal of 150 subjects. He found that smooth muscle stimulants (pitocin), adrenergic drugs (epinephrine and norepinephrine), and the emotional states of anxiety, fear, and pain resulted in an increased production of apocrine sweat. In addition, rubbing or cleaning the canal wall resulted in a mechanical ''milking'' of the cerumenous glands. In some cases, vigorous chewing caused distortions of the ear canal that caused the same milking effect.''
Earmolds certainly can provide the mechanical ''milking'' of the ceruminous glands mentioned above. Common sense would also support the idea that earmolds can contribute to the possible ''blockage'' of/or inhibit the natural migration of material from the eardrum to the opening of the ear canal. Of course, the degree of ''milking'' and ''blockage'' seems to vary significantly from person to person.
There is probably not a significant difference in cerumen production with regard to the use of hard vs soft earmold materials. There may be a connection between a soft material's ability to ''grab'' the ear canal tissue and cause more mechanical ''milking'' action than a hard material might, perhaps resulting in more cerumen production.
Westone Laboratories, with full service facilities in Colorado Springs, Seattle, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, is the industry leader in the creation and manufacture of custom earmolds and hearing protection, as well as clinical supplies and products for the end user. Started by the Morgan family in 1959, Westone has produced over 7 million earmolds, each one custom-made. Randy Morgan, President & CEO, called upon his core team to assist in addressing this question. With over 200 years combined experience, the team consists of staff audiologists, lab managers, research engineers and earmold technical experts.