Mask selection is an essential part of the CPAP solution; a great CPAP machine with perfect settings is not going to help you if the mask doesn't fit. As a newbie, It's not clear how one is supposed to acquire the best mask, both initially and long term. I'm eager to learn from others how they arrived at their ideal masks. A slight detail on this is that for a given 'mask' model, there are typically 3 sizes of 'cushion' (sometimes called a 'seal') that is the 'business end' of the mask - the part that goes up against the skin.
In my case, I was given a 'trial' CPAP machine by the sleep clinic, and they gave me two masks - one nasal, one full face. I had to give up on the nasal due to mouth leaks, so focused on the full face. After a few weeks using that FF, I noticed I had severe 'trumpeting' ('mask farts') plus air blowing into my eyes and determined the mask (actually, the 'cushion') was too large. I called the clinic, and they gave me a smaller cushion for the mask I had, plus a different mask design AND both a small and a medium cushion for it (the clinic initially said their readings didn't show significant leakage, but when I mentioned the noise, they acquiesced). So now I'm up to 5 masks/cushions- 1 nasal, 2 F&P Vitera (small, medium cushions) and 2 Resmed Airfit F20s (small, medium cushions). Then when I showed up for the in-clinic sleep study the other night, the clinician didn't like the fit of any of my masks and gave me yet another - an F&P Evora Full Face (which felt amazing!).
So far, for me, this hasn't cost me a penny (over and above the co-pays for the clinic visits, etc). These mask kits (headgear, frame, seal) seem to cost in the $100-200 range, with the 'cushion' alone costing around $50. So experimentation isn't cheap. Plus, there are 'hygiene' considerations with a face mask, so I presume a vendor can't just let you 'try' one and return it without 'someone' footing the bill.
- Is it normal / expected that the sleep clinic will continue to give you different masks/cushions until you have the ideal solution? I see so many posts from people who seem to be given a mask as part of their purchase without any 'fitting' being mentioned.
- Over time, as new masks/seals become available (or as your own face changes, perhaps due to a beard, etc), how does an established CPAP user get to try a new / different mask/seal? Are you expected to buy any new mask? Are you allowed to 'trial' masks before committing to a purchase? I just saw a post here on the forum where a user said they were a long-time CPAP user and some new mask was the best thing that ever happened to them.
- CPAP machines are 'prescription only'; are masks similarly controlled or can you just buy a mask without restriction (in the US, specifically)? EG - can I go to CPAP.com and buy a mask?