Now that summer has officially arrived, everyone is seeking solutions that allow them to be in and around water or are more durable against sweat and humidity. Hearing aids are no exception! Water proof hearing aids are a relatively new innovation and perhaps not the first consideration when choosing a pair, but they are certainly an added bonus.
In this article, we break down the suggested water proof hearing aids we recommend and how to take care of them.
Are Hearing Aids Waterproof?
When looking at the 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,” representing how well the device can withstand 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 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 electronics housing could 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.
If you see hearing aids or other devices with an IP 68 rating, that is the way electronics are defined as “waterproof,” but you may still want to exercise caution with how they are used. You aren’t scuba diving in these hearing aids, but they’ll be safe for regular activities in and around water.
Which Hearing Aids Are Waterproof?
Here are some examples of great hearing aids that are waterproof in addition to their other essential features. Something to keep in mind is that you probably aren’t trying to hear underwater but more in and around water. Maybe you’re taking an aqua aerobics class or splashing in the pool with your kids, and you don’t want to worry about taking your hearing aids out. Or perhaps you’re an avid biker who gets sweaty out on the roads in the summer. Having hearing aids with a higher IP rating will mean they are generally more protected against moisture.
Phonak introduced the world’s first waterproof, rechargeable hearing aid with their Audeo Life, the second generation of that device. They specify that it is waterproof up to 50 centimeters (less than two feet). Phonak has borrowed proprietary waterproof technology from their sister company, Advanced Bionics, to implement an acoustically transparent hydrophobic membrane on the microphones. This sounds quite fancy but means that the sound quality isn’t inhibited by a special covering over the microphone.
These hearing aids are described as fully waterproof and “IP 68+”. 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. Instead, you have peace of mind while around water, weather, or sweat that your hearing aids will not suffer permanent damage.
The ReSound hearing aids also boast an IP 68 rating and rechargeability. They are described as “weatherproof” and advertise a nanocoating on all hearing aid components.
Siemens, now rebranded as Signia, was 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 these devices’ superior wind control feature.
5. Oticon Real
These are technically advertised as “water-resistant” with an IP 58 rating. You’ll notice that the protection against water (the “8”) is the same as the others, but they are perhaps less durable against foreign bodies. Even still, Oticon advises removing the hearing aids before swimming or showering.
Another option for a rechargeable hearing aid with an IP 68 rating. One audiologist’s review mentions explicitly the superior wind management technology, particularly noticeable while riding a bike on a windy day. This might be a great choice if you are looking for a durable hearing aid for sweaty outdoor sports.
The main takeaway is that all the companies have successfully introduced waterproof or water-resistant hearing aids. Rechargeability has helped on this front, as the elimination of a battery door means there is one less opening in the devices for water to seep inside and cause damage to the electronics. You should have good peace of mind choosing a hearing aid for other reasons and knowing that it is likely pretty durable in various situations.
All of these hearing aids also offer some degree of streaming capability, but if you’re picturing yourself listening to a podcast while swimming laps, you’ll need to be in the market for something else. This is a limitation of Bluetooth technology and also not really the intended use for waterproofing your hearing aids, as most of the companies have only been tested to 30 minutes and have a restriction on the depth of submersion. You might try a waterproof MP3 player like this one, where you can pre-download music or other audio content to listen to while in the water. An added benefit of this style is that they work via bone conduction, so you don’t have to worry about the interference of water getting between your ear bud and your eardrum.
What Can I Do To Protect My Hearing Aids Against Moisture?
That said, it is essential to remember that these tiny computers should not stay wet if they get wet. There are a few different options to remove moisture from your hearing aids which can be used regularly as part of routine care and maintenance, potentially more often in the summer months when water, sweat, and humidity are more significant concerns.
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.
This electronic dryer is larger than the jar, so it may be preferred if you want 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.
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 hearing aids and 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.
Water Proof Hearing Aids Takeaway
Hopefully with these tips you can feel comfortable and confident getting wet in the pool or sweaty outside this summer, knowing that your listening abilities won’t be in jeopardy and your hearing aids will be able to withstand the water.
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.