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Custom Fit Earbuds

Combine custom molded earplugs with in-ear headphones for isolated hi-fi.

Custom Fit Earbuds

I’ve used quite a variety of sound-isolating personal audio gear; around-ear cans, in-ear buds, as well as active noise-canceling models. All of them posed problems for me in one way or another. Most often, it came down to issues with comfort and how well each design could maintain a good seal on my noggin.

I was excited to find out that there are custom-fit headphone services out there, but my enthusiasm withered upon learning the price for such a thing.

Luckily there are simple DIY custom-mold earplug kits available for relatively cheap, so I dug out my old pair of quality earbuds, ordered a kit, and well, put together a very simple but satisfyingly effective project.

Steps

Step #1:

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  • Mix the two separate putties included with the earplug kit.
  • The earbuds I'm using are quite bulky, so I decided to use only half the amount specified by the kit's instructions (in other words, 1/4 of the total material for each ear). This leaves me enough to make another pair if need be.

Step #2:

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Custom Fit Earbuds
  • Before proceeding with this, take into account the following considerations. If you are going to DIY instead of getting a professional (such as an audiologist) to make your custom devices then at least follow the follow steps
  • DO NOT ATTEMPT if you have ever had a mastoidectomy or any ear surgery or the putty will end up in a very bad place and will require surgery. Meningitis = VERY BAD.
  • Wait until the putty is definitely set; if it isn't then it may be left behind in your ear, setting yourself up for a visit to the emergency room.
  • When removing the mold from your ear, VERY SLOWLY release the seal around the top part of your ear and VERY SLOWLY twist the mold forwards and outwards. If you just pull it out then the suction can burst your eardrum, causing immense pain, possible loss in hearing, perhaps requiring EXPENSIVE surgery and a trip to the emergency room. Plus, you won't be able to get your ears wet until the perforation has healed or risk massive pain and infection.

Step #3:

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  • Remove the rubber or foam sleeves from the earbuds and evenly press half of the putty mixture into each ear.
  • Insert the sleeveless earbuds into your putty-filled ears as you would normally wear them.

Step #4:

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Custom Fit Earbuds
  • Wait at least 10 minutes as the mixtures cure and solidify.
  • Once they are fully cured, you should be able to remove the molds and earbuds together as one piece - though it's not a problem if they come out separately.

Step #5:

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  • Trim the excess mold to expose the end of each earbud's stem/sound-pipe.
  • For comfort's sake, it's also a good idea to trim any abrupt edges that result.
  • And in the interest of safety - do remember to cut away from fingers (unlike me in this photo!)

Step #6:

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  • Try them on for a sound-check.
  • If all goes well - you're done! The small pouch included with the earplug kit makes for a decent (perhaps a bit snug) carrying case.

Collin Cunningham

Born, drew a lot, made video, made music on 4-track, then computer, more songwriting, met future wife, went to art school for video major, made websites, toured in a band, worked as web media tech, discovered electronics, taught myself electronics, blogged about DIY electronics, made web videos about electronics and made music for them … and I still do!


Comments

  1. Dzsefi says:

    that’s what I’m thinking of too – the liquidy material would just flow into the earbud, blocking the sound.

  2. schlmeil says:

    yup, one of mine got putty in it, the other did not. Now I’m sitting here trying to get the solid putty out…

  3. Mark says:

    Yes, I noticed that the earbud got putty on it before the putty had cured. I would suggest doing this in 2 steps; 1 make ear plugs, 2 fit phones to plugs.

  4. Collin Cunningham says:

    Huh – wasn’t a problem with the shure E2Cs I used. Perhaps some designs have considerably larger openings than others. Also, I spent around 30secs or so pressing/molding the putty into my ears before inserting the sleeveless earbuds.

  5. neilol says:

    Yeah I had a similar problem. My earbuds (Lenntek Sonix) have pretty stubby sound pipes so without the rubber they didn’t go very far into the earplug material. They work great but the isolation aspect is a bit less since I had to cut off quite a bit of earplug. As for blocking out putty, I just cut round pieces of masking tape to cover them (mine have a screen and not an open tube so I knew the putty would stick)

  6. Josh Burroughs says:

    I had the same problem with my Shure SE115s I just couldn’t get the sound pipes centered at my ear canal. I was actually off so much I had to scrap the plugs. Least the kits are cheap, I’m going to order a couple more kits tonight and try drilling them out after curing instead.

  7. Ari says:

    I just put a short (i cm) piece of plastic tubing over the end of the sound pipe. Happened that a piece from a roller ball pen cartridge was the right diameter. Put the silicone around that, and Bob’s your uncle, worked just fine.

  8. Rick Marchus says:

    You have a nice idea here, but this material is generally used for (temporary) impressions, and not meant to be a permanent product. I actually made my impressions out of the ‘basic A’ kit and sent them to custom-ears.com for a long lasting vinyl earbud set. So far, mine have lasted 3 years, through a few sets of headphones (they are custom molded for your particular headphones, so make sure you like your current headphone set) and still fit perfectly. The solid vinyl product has excellent isolating properties, and remains pliable for a long time, so they will remain comfortable for years of use. Check out Custom-Ears.com for a perfect set of earpieces that are worthy of your great headphones. They aren’t cheap, but they offer a 100% guarantee, so you won’t be risking anything to give them a try.

    1. Ian Cooper says:

      It might be good to point out that you are the owner of Custom-Ears.com so that readers will take your comment with the appropriate salt. The whole point of Collin’s post here is to offer an affordable DIY solution. Even if you have to re-make them every year, you still come out far ahead using the silicone putty.

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  10. lissidur says:

    This article changed my listening life. I had to experiment, but finally got a pair to fit perfectly. Even earbuds sound great. Thanks!