While there is a misconception that hearing aids are only for the elderly, there are thousands of hearing aid users who are young and/or active, both physically and socially. Hearing aid technology has made huge strides in terms of managing noisy environments to encourage continued social interaction, and the devices are increasingly robust against the effects of sweat, dirt, and debris, too. This article will help you choose the best hearing aid for active lifestyles.
What Makes Hearing Aids Sports Proof?
A suitable hearing aid for active lifestyles must be “sports proof” and there are a few different factors to consider when you are purchasing hearing aids with the intention of using them during physical acts hearing aid for active lifestyles.
- IP Rating
When you are looking at waterproof capabilities of any electronics, whether it be your hearing aids or your smartphone, you’ll see an IP number. This stands for “ingress protection” and it represents how well the device can stand up to both water and foreign bodies such as dust or debris. The first number is a scale of 0 to 6 and represents protection against solids, with the highest rating being “6” for complete durability against dust and similar particles.
The second number is a scale of 0 to 8 and represents protection against water, with the highest rating being “8.” Contrary to what you might think, an “8” does not mean it is totally waterproof in the traditional sense. This rating means that the device can be immersed in 1 meter or more of water for more than 30 minutes. The housing of the electronics was able to withstand this test and the device was still fully functional after 30 minutes. At greater depths and for longer durations of submersion, there is probably still a spectrum within the “8” rating of how well the device would remain safe against water getting inside. That said, users should feel reassured that hearing aids with an IP 68 rating would offer good protection against dust, dirt, sweat, humidity, rain, or being splashed in a pool.
One of the most important things is for your hearing aids to remain on your ears during exercise. Hearing aids are an investment and you certainly don’t want to lose them at any point, least of all when you are out for a long run or playing in a rugby match. The first step to ensuring that you won’t have issues using your hearing aid for active lifestyles is to choose a unit style that has a secure fit.
The most popular kind of hearing aid for active lifestyles are receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) or receiver-in-canal (RIC) units, which are synonymous terms for hearing aids which contain a small device seated behind the ear and a thin wire leading to the receiver/speaker inside the ear canal. These hearing aids tend to be comfortable and discrete and fit well in general, but there are some added retention options if you are concerned. The hearing aids can be fit with a simple retention lock (pictured below) which is essentially a thin piece of plastic that places counter pressure on the concha bowl of your ear to keep the receiver in place. This piece tends to mold to the shape of your ear after a couple of days and is easy and inexpensive to replace.
There are also accessories specifically designed for children or active adults to ensure that, if the hearing aids do fall out of the ears, that they can’t go very far. These usually involve a small loop around the behind-the-ear portion of each hearing aid, which attaches to a clip worn on the collar.
RIC or RITE are not the only style of suitable hearing aid for active lifestyles. For more severe hearing losses, a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid will have the same benefits with a well-fitted earmold. If you prefer a custom style such as an in-the-ear (ITE) or completely-in-canal (CIC) device, these would be built based on an impression of your ear and therefore should fit quite snugly in the ear with minimal risk of getting snagged and pulled out of your ear. That said, a concern with this style would be increased susceptibility to sweat if the devices are occluding your ears.
If your hearing aids do happen to fall out of your ears during your activity, many of today’s devices offer a “find my hearing aids” feature of sorts in their proprietary app, where they are able to use Bluetooth technology to pinpoint the last location the hearing aids were in.
- Streaming Capability
Depending on the type of physical activity or sport you plan to participate in, it might be of great interest to you to be able to stream media through your hearing aids. Whether you are following a Peloton workout, listening to your favorite music, or catching up on a podcast, Bluetooth compatibility is essential for many active hearing aid users.
Most prescription hearing aids today are equipped with Bluetooth compatibility, though you should be sure to check the hearing aid options based on the device you are planning to stream with. For example, some devices are Made-for-iPhone, whereas others are more Android-friendly or equally compatible with any Bluetooth device. These hearing aids also offer a variety of mixing ratios between streaming and environmental noise to ensure that you remain safe during your activity, particularly if you are running or biking on the road and it is critical that you are able to hear oncoming traffic.
Best Hearing Aid For Active Lifestyle – Prescription Devices
Phonak introduced the world’s first waterproof, rechargeable hearing aid with their Audeo Life, and this is the second generation of that device. They do specify that it is waterproof up to 50 centimeters (less than two feet). That said, Phonak has been able to borrow some proprietary waterproof technology from their sister company, Advanced Bionics, to implement an acoustically transparent hydrophobic membrane on the microphones.
This sounds quite fancy but really means that the sound quality isn’t inhibited by a special covering over the microphone. Phonak was also the first company to offer “made for all” technology with regards to Bluetooth streaming, so if you plan to stream while you exercise, you can be sure any device will be compatible. This set of hearing aid for active lifestyles comes in a RIC style, which is suitable for mild to profound hearing losses. Phonak is one of the leading manufacturers of pediatric hearing aids, which means that extra retention options will be easily available.
These hearing aids are described as fully waterproof and “IP 68+”, an ideal set of hearing aid for active lifestyles. According to the manufacturer, they underwent tests above and beyond the usual ingress protection testing including an “accelerated aging” test to ensure that the components can withstand dust and water long-term. Even still, like Phonak, Starkey advises against actually trying to swim with the hearing aids. Rather, you have peace of mind while around water, weather, or sweat that your hearing aids will not suffer permanent damage.
This device also comes in a RIC style as well as a variety of custom devices, including as tiny as an invisible-in-canal (IIC) device. Finally, the Genesis AI line provides options for wireless streaming, as well as health tracking including fall detection.
Siemens, now rebranded as Signia, was actually the first to market with a waterproof hearing aid with their Aquaris device back in 2014. The Pure Charge & Go AX has an IP 68 rating and is fully rechargeable. For those interested in a waterproof hearing aid for outdoor sports, the manufacturer also touts the superior wind control feature of these devices. These devices will last up to 61 hours on one charge and there is a portable charger option, so you have great peace of mind that you’re truly getting a suitable hearing aid for active lifestyles. They definitely won’t die on you during your activity. They also offer some streaming compatibility.
What Are The Best Hearing Aid For Active Lifestyle?
The hearing aids listed above are all great waterproof options from established manufacturers which have advantages beyond their capabilities for an active lifestyle. If you are not ready to invest in prescription hearing aids but you have a mild to moderate hearing loss and would like to try hearing aids, here are some good over the counter options that are suitable for active lifestyle.
At $2,590 for a pair, these are likely going to be less expensive than any of the options listed above. They are advertised as an IP X7 rating, which means they can be submerged in water up to one meter for 30 minutes. They have not been evaluated for their resistance to dust and debris. They are a completely-in-canal (CIC) style that is self-fit by the patient. There is a 45-day trial period for the devices as well as a two year warranty.
At $999 for a pair, these are one of the more affordable options on the market. They are a RIC style, rechargeable, and, while the IP rating is not published, they are reported to have nanocoating for moisture resistance. They can fully charge in two hours, and last 16 hours on a full charge. They also come with a standard one-year warranty.
Audicus Wave & Omni
There are two rechargeable, waterproof RIC options from Audicus: Wave and Omni. Both boast an IP 68 rating and Bluetooth compatibility. The Wave device starts at $1,299 per ear while the Omni is $699 per ear. The other option is a monthly membership cost of $159 and $89, respectively, which allows the patient to upgrade styles every 18 months. With either option, patients have access to a 45-day trial period as well as unlimited remote service support.
How Do We Choose The Best Hearing Aid for Active Lifestyle?
These lists are compiled based on the factors that patients should be looking for when determining the best hearing aids for their lifestyle. In this case, for patients who are seeking a hearing aid that will stand up to physical activity, we were looking for:
- Waterproof/water resistance. This is a critical component for physical activity, as most of these involve sweat, if not direct interaction with water! The IP rating also outlines resistance against dust and debris which is particularly relevant for outdoor sports and activities.
- Streaming capabilities. Many patients want to stream during a workout and wearing hearing aids would prevent use of most traditional headphones or earphone styles. In this way, your hearing aids can serve a dual purpose of streaming and hearing your surroundings.
- Rechargeability. The elimination of a battery door is one way that hearing aids have become increasingly waterproof, because that was previously a large orifice where water and moisture could get in to damage the electronics. Plus, there is the added convenience of rechargeability, particularly charging on the go.
- Price point. The hearing aids listed above are at a wide range of price points. Note that prescription hearing aid prices will vary by technology level and by provider. Talk to your provider about what is included in their bundled pricing for hearing aids as far as warranty, repairs, and follow up visits.
- Style options. Patients may have different desires for hearing aid style based on aesthetic preferences, comfort, and retention. Most of the hearing aids listed above are a RIC style, while others are custom or non-custom in-the-ear styles in varying sizes.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can sweat damage hearing aids?
In the short term, the nanocoating and other waterproofing measures that have been taken to protect your hearing aids will do the job against sweat. That said, it is a good idea to take some steps to prevent the sweat or other moisture from sitting on your hearing aids, particularly if this is something you are dealing with daily due to regular exercise or even humidity.
Which style of hearing aid is best for physical activity?
Any hearing aid style can be appropriate for physical activity, it really just depends on what you are most comfortable wearing. You want to ensure that whatever style you choose has good retention on or in your ears, and that it doesn’t interfere with any other gear you might need to wear during your physical activity such as a helmet or goggles.
How can I protect my hearing aids against sweat and moisture?
There are a few different options to remove moisture from your hearing aids which can be used on a regular basis as part of routine care and maintenance, potentially more often in the summer months when water, sweat, and humidity are greater concerns.
- Dri-Aid Jar ($25, Amazon.com)
This is a lower cost option, occasionally included with an initial hearing aid purchase. It works with tiny desiccant pellets that remove moisture from your hearing aids. It is very easy to use and can be “reset” by either microwaving the pellets or putting them in the oven on a low temperature to remove the moisture. You can get in the habit of storing your hearing aids in the jar every night, so they are in a safe place and moisture is removed.
- Perfect Dry Electronic Dehumidifier ($32, Amazon.com)
This electronic dryer is larger than the jar, so may be preferred if you are looking to dry two sets of hearing aids, or a set of hearing aids and AirPods. It uses heat circulation rather than desiccants so nothing in it needs to be replaced or reset. The cycle is about two hours long, so you could run it after an encounter with moisture or use it overnight.
- Phonak D-Dry + ($120, Hearing Planet)
In addition to removing moisture, the higher price point on this device also includes cleaning properties. The UV-C light in combination with the regulated temperature will kill germs on the hearing aids, which can be particularly beneficial for anyone concerned about sanitation or prone to frequent ear infections. The cycle on this one is just over two hours.
It is a good idea to use one of these driers after every encounter with water or moisture, whether it is playing by the pool, getting stuck in the rain, or a particularly challenging spinning workout. This should be part of your regular care and maintenance routine, just like removing wax or debris from the unit. You can further maintain them as a suitable hearing aid for active lifestyles by changing your domes, tubing, and/or wax guards regularly.
Additionally, you want to avoid exposing your hearing aids to sunscreen, bug spray, or other liquids commonly encountered in these scenarios, as those might actually do more damage than simply letting the hearing aids get wet. A good practice is to apply your sunscreen and bug spray first, wash your hands, and then put your hearing aids in place. You may also want to wipe your hearing aids down with a soft cloth to avoid letting sweat dry on them. Try to avoid using alcohol wipes on your hearing aids as these can degrade the nanocoating. A damp cloth or baby wipe is sufficient to remove sweat or debris prior to using your dryer.
Can you wear hearing aids while exercising?
Absolutely! Whether your chosen exercise relies on streaming a workout through your hearing aids, being able to hear an instructor in a group fitness class, or feeling safe around traffic while running or biking, hearing aids can be just as essential to your workout as your moisture-wicking outfit or your running shoes. Choosing hearing aids that offer waterproof or water-resistant technology will give you good peace of mind about using them during physical activity, and it is important to keep up a strong care and maintenance routine.
Hearing Aid For Active Lifestyle – Conclusion
Hopefully you feel good about making a decision on a pair of hearing aids that will help you to remain physically active in your daily life while hearing your best. If you are having difficulty hearing, the first step is to see an audiologist for a diagnostic hearing test. Your provider can help to guide you to the best hearing aids for your hearing loss and lifestyle needs.
Erin Edwards received her Doctor of Audiology degree from Towson University in 2015 and her Ph.D. in Education and Leadership from Pacific University in 2022. She has worked with patients of all ages in a variety of settings and has a specific interest in cochlear implants, the relationship of hearing loss and dementia, and interdisciplinary healthcare.