Injecting goo into the ear for a perfect fit

Injecting goo into the ear for a perfect fit

SINGAPORE - Last month, Mr Lee Kiat Seng, a lawyer in his 40s, visited audio store Jaben in The Adelphi shopping centre to have "gooey stuff" injected into his ear canal.

It was part of the process of making a set of customised earphones.

The "gooey stuff"? Quick-drying silicone used to create an impression of his ear canal to ensure that the finished earphones fit perfectly in his ear.

While waiting for the silicone to harden, Mr Lee had to sit still for 10 minutes - moving his head too much would have resulted in an inaccurate impression of his ear.

After the mould was done, the store flew it to British manufacturer Advanced Communication Solutions to craft a pair of earphones that would be uniquely his.

Mr Lee is looking forward to his bespoke earphones which will be ready next week or so. It will be the first set of customised earphones he owns. Not only will the turquoise earphones be tailored to the shape of his ears, but they will also have his Chinese name engraved on the face plate - one character on each side.

He declines to reveal how much they cost ("my wife will kill me"). However, the shop says such custom-made jobs start from $299 and can go up to more than $3,000.

Jaben has been carrying such earphones since it opened in 2005. The shop has more than 10 brands of customised earphones from the American brand JH Audio to the Japanese brand FitEar. They take between two and six weeks to be made.

Back then, the customised earphones were targeted at musicians who required superior sound isolation for stage performances. Since about 2008, customers ranging from 16-year-old students to working professionals in their 40s have bought these earphones too.

Demand has gone up by 30 per cent in the past two years at Jaben. It is the exclusive dealer for the brands of customised earphones it carries. Demand has also gone up by 30 per cent year-on-year at Stereo Electronics which carries one brand of custom-made earphones called Unique Melody.

Ms Claire Jiang, 25, country manager for Jaben, which has more than 20 stores in the world including in China and South Africa, says: "Most custom earphones owners are not musicians but people who love music."

Mr Lee says: "When buying universal earphones, I worry whether the earpiece is too big for my ear.

"But this one fits exactly and is fantastic for noise isolation. It cuts out the ambient noise. I fly abroad quite a bit for work and listen to music on the plane, so that will come in useful."

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